Joana Schenker Honoured by Portuguese President
Just the other day it emerged that 2017 Female World Champion and all-round ideal ambassador for our sport Joana Schenker was awarded a Order of Merit in her home Country of Portugal. Suited up and all Joana was presented with the achievement by Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. We weren’t there at the ceremony, but we imagine it going down something akin to the medal giving in Star Wars - A New Hope (minus the droids and yeti).
All jokes aside Joana and Portugal certainly seem to be a force to be reckoned with in regard to bringing bodyboarding into the eye of the mainstream public. We spoke to Joana about what this award means and what the whole experience entailed…
MM: First of all, Joana, huge congrats from all of us over here at Movement!
JS: Hey Movement! Thank you guys so much!
It’s obvious that being presented a medal from the President of your Country is no small deal… but for those of us who are unaware, what is the medal of Merit?
I had never heard of the many different medals that exist in Portugal until now. So, I obviously had to search it up, and so it says on the presidential website: “The Order of Merit is intended to reward meritorious acts or services practiced in the exercise of any functions, public or private, that reveal abnegation in favor of the community”.
What does it feel like to be recognised by your country for representing a sport you love?
I never gave too much importance to awards and stuff like that, but it does feel good to see all the years invested in something being recognised and especially seeing bodyboarding being valued like this. I know that this medal wasn´t only for winning the world title for Portugal in 2017, because that fact alone doesn´t put you on this list. During the ceremony, when I was to receive the medal, the president quoted “we award you for standing for excellence within our youth”, so I guess all the work at the Portuguese schools spreading awareness about ocean pollution in the last months added to it and made me eligible for this medal, and that is something I´m happy to be recognized for.
Did you ever think bodyboarding would take you as far in life as it has?
Honestly no, I could never have imagined any of this when I first started out 18 years ago. But that was never the reason I do it anyway, I would still head to the beach and bodyboard just for fun even if none of this had ever happened. I’m also aware of why bodyboarding has been so generous to me, and when I put it into perspective with the fate of many other great bodyboarders, sometimes it even seems a bit unfair to me. I did get lucky at times, but I also have been investing all my energy into this, its takes a hell a lot of work and professionalism to be successful in the main stream, they don´t need you, so if you´re not on point, they just take the next athlete. In the past two years I have been sacrificing a lot of my peace of mind and my time in the water for it, but it has been paying off in return.
Do you think other countries will follow suit in regard to Portugal’s recognition of bodyboarding?
I really don´t know, maybe Portugal is leading by example and that might inspire other countries, I hope so!
What was the ceremony like? Were you nervous?
I guess I wasn´t nervous mainly because I turned up a bit unaware about how much of a deal this is. It was held in the Presidential Palace in Belém in Lisbon, and I drove up there with the mayor of Vila do Bispo (also one of my main sponsors for the last 10 years), who came with me. I was determined to get a selfie with the President, but the ceremony was super formal and besides the President there where many other very important politicians present, I lost courage to break protocol and I didn’t even ask for it. Funny fact though, if you look at the pictures, I managed to match my suit to the Presidents tie!
How do you think the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa would go if he were to pick up a board and some fins?
We have to coolest President ever, he actually used to bodyboard when he was younger and would usually catch some waves in Praia do Guincho near Lisbon. He is 70 years old now, but I bet he would still know how have fun!