Olympian hopeful embraces equity

Tuesday 7th March 2023

Say hello to Charlie Follett, a modern pentathlon athlete that has big plans. Originally from North Somerset, Charlie will be aiming for the Paris Olympics as part of Team GB in 2024. Yeo Valley Organic is proud to support her journey towards securing a medal. If you’d like to learn more about Charlie, catch up on our Meet the Olympian blog post.

We caught up with Charlie during a very rare interval in her training program to find out her thoughts on International Women’s Day, who inspires her and celebrates women’s achievement in sport and beyond. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Equestrian show jumping is just one of five sports Charlie takes part in

Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
International women’s day offers an opportunity to celebrate the achievement of women and stand for women’s rights. It is also an opportunity to empower young girls and remind them that they can achieve across all sectors of life and that sex/gender should never be a barrier. My favourite quote is, “You don’t have to play masculine to be a strong woman.” This is particularly evident in my sport, where women possess emotional and mental qualities that enable them to be focused, resilient, determined and confident.

Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
I have always believed that being a woman should never hold you back or be seen as a negative. I am grateful that there are no gender barriers in my sport and indeed, most of the historical success of Great British Modern pentathlon has come from the women’s squad.

What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?
The best piece of advice came from my parents when I was a young girl. They advised me that I can be whatever I dream of being, as long as I’m prepared to work hard, accept setbacks and enjoy the whole journey without obsessing over an end result.

Charlie competing in the 2022 European Championships

Achieving your dreams (whether in sport, a career or even working to become the best version of yourself) is unlikely to be purely smooth sailing. The key is to accept losses as part of the journey and use a growth mindset, to ensure that you’re constantly learning. That being said, it is equally important to find joy in the everyday and ensure that life is balanced. If you are experiencing sustained periods of unhappiness whilst chasing your dreams, then perhaps it’s time to start an exciting new chapter.

How can we encourage more women to take part in your industry?
Young women need sporting role models to aspire to. I believe that it is important for athlete role models to share both the highs and lows of their journeys (and trust me – there are many lows) to reveal an honest picture of high-level sport. There will always be bumps in the road, but when the desire to achieve something is great enough, women have an incredible ability to push through and achieve those things!

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
That there is no rush! Choosing your career can seem incredibly frighting but start by considering what you’re passionate about. Even if that career path seems currently unattainable, doors will begin to open, if you’re prepared to work hard.

From a young age, my dream has been to compete for Great Britain in the Modern pentathlon and train with the team GB squad, at the University of Bath. I wanted to study psychology, however, the entry requirements for the Psychology degree at the University of Bath were A, A, A*  at A-level! These requirements were beyond my predicted grades and many people deemed them unattainable. However, I studied day in, day out and even opted to complete an extra year of school. In turn, I managed to achieve the grades and was accepted onto the course.

Charlie Follet, Pentathlon World Championships, 2022

Despite gaining my place at University, automatic enrolment onto the National Modern Pentathlon squad was not as easy as I had imagined. I can clearly remember a comment that was made by an ex-coach, just before I started university. He said; “Just because you can drive a car, that doesn’t make you a racing driver.” In essence, he was telling me that just because I could do all 5 sports of modern pentathlon, I shouldn’t consider myself good enough to train with the GB squad. Whilst this comment upset me hugely at the time, especially given my sacrifices to get to that point, I did not allow it to reduce my desire to achieve. If anything, it spurred me on further and created an urge to prove him wrong.

Thankfully, I was happily accepted into the squad (where I have now trained for the past 7 years). My message to that coach and any hard-working girl is that the winners of Formula 1 races are not born… they all START by learning how to drive a car! An important message for anyone whose desire is being questioned is to have faith in themselves, ignore other people’s negativity and have confidence in their ability to achieve.

Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?
Kate French is a huge inspiration for me. Not only is she a good friend, but she is also the current Olympic champion of Modern Pentathlon! I have a huge amount of respect for Kate, not only for her incredible achievements but also due to the manner in which she has achieved success. She has very quietly, calmly and kindly gone about her route to the top and she is a real role model for our sport and to women in general.

If you could have a cup of tea with three inspirational women, dead or alive, whom would they be and why?
Firstly, I would invite Queen Elizabeth II. I would have loved the opportunity to have met such an incredible woman. She was highly respected and showed such strength, courage and resilience. Secondly, Yusra Mardini, who was forced to flee war-zone Syria in 2015 and then went on to represent the Refugee Olympic swimming team in Rio 2016. Her story is truly inspirational and I would love to hear about her experiences. Finally, I would invite my Mum. Despite seeing her regularly, I am always learning from her and I couldn’t let her miss out on a cup of tea!

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