“Let’s just see how far we get.”
On Monday night, Lina Nielsen spoke to students at Queen Mary’s This Girl Can x Uni Boob Team event; an evening dedicated to inspiring its attendees. The European Junior 4x400m Gold Medallist told us that her career began purely because she and her twin sister (Laviai Nielsen) decided that they could start and, as noted above, keep going as far as they were able. It was heartening to hear these words from a talent such as Nielsen, a multi-time champion and international competitor, as she addressed a captive audience of young women. A QM alumna herself, it was clear Nielsen understood balancing an enthusiasm for sport with the pressures of a degree, but her determination to keep going in whatever ways she could was inspiring. Confident and engaging, her (ongoing!) story detailed the disappointments of injury and not placing, but still mapped an upward trajectory despite setbacks. This Girl Can’s stated aim of empowering girls to “[do] their thing no matter how well they do it”, ending a fear of stigma attached to not being immediately brilliant, seemed encapsulated by Nielsen’s urge to attempt whatever she decided upon and strive to do well. While we might not all find ourselves hiring trainers and going pro at whatever we try our hands at alongside a 2:1 in Chemistry, Monday night’s talk still serves as a fantastic encouragement to just go for it.
The evening of inspirational chat didn’t stop with QM’s own athletic talent, however. We were also joined by Abbie, a CoppaFeel! Boobette (a woman under the age of 35 who has been affected by breast cancer in some shape or form). While it might seem a far removed from the sport-focused theme of This Girl Can, Coppafeel! is Queen Mary Netball’s adopted charity and their roaming breast costumes are now a familiar sight at QMotion. As they have now been receiving fundraising and awareness support from the sporting population of QM for over a year, with philanthropic activities including a netball tournament, the night’s talk seemed like a perfect opportunity for a representative to speak personally and candidly about the charity to the students who may or may not be aware of the bigger picture. Our visiting Boobette’s experiences were mapped against specific points in her university career – grounding her knowledge of breast cancer in her own time as a first year lent CoppaFeel!’s message a familiarity to the audience. As one of the main goals of the charity is to empower young people to seek help for their health if they think they need it and to grow more familiar with their bodies, it was also clear to see how such an awareness would lend itself to the mission of This Girl Can. Abbie’s reminders to check your boobs (or pecs!) and to stay calm about it was an invaluable addition to the night.
Ultimately, this early event in This Girl Can calendar was certainly as inspirational as it was billed as – two empowered young women empowering young women is exactly what this week entails.