Leylah Fernandez at Wimbledon

INTERVIEW: Leylah Fernandez Talks 2024 Paris Olympics, Her Idols & Growing Up Latina

Courtesy of Leylah Fernandez

Leylah Fernandez is preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The professional tennis player has been announced as part of Canada’s team at the Olympics, which will begin in Paris starting July 26th. Remezcla spoke with Fernandez about the Olympics, her idols, and what it means to grow up in a Latine family as she prepares for her second Olympics. From the start, Fernandez was clear that for her, the Olympics are “bigger than any other tournament.”

“For me, I feel like winning a medal is up there to winning a Grand Slam,” Fernandez said. “I think the Olympics, what’s so beautiful about the event is that so many countries, and cultures can participate in the Olympics. And you know, every time I have watched the Olympics, I’ve always felt the sense of motivation that I want to be part of it because there’s something bigger than any other tournament. There’s a bigger sense of responsibility because we’re not just playing for ourselves but for a country, a community, our family, and everything.”

But representing Canada, for Fernandez, doesn’t mean forgetting her heritage. It never has. “I don’t think many people understand that yes, I was born in Canada. Yes, I grew up in Canada. I moved to the US to play tennis. But the reality is that I’m also Latina and I’m also Filipina. My dad taught me the values of his parents, my grandparents who were from Peru, Ecuador and that immigrated to Canada.”

Leylah Fernandez Lululemon Team Canada
Courtesy of Leylah Fernandez
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And that is something Fernandez carries wherever she goes. “They taught my dad their values, values of working hard, values of honesty, loyalty, and also perseverance needed to survive.” So for Fernandez, her heritage isn’t just something that exists in the background. Instead “being Latina is extremely important. We are extremely proud of our heritage. We’re extremely proud of where my grandparents came from, and where my dad came from. I want to be able to showcase to the world that I’m not afraid to show that this is who I am. This is part of me. This is part of my heart.”

“That’s also what motivates me into competing, into playing matches because I know that without their teachings, without their values, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, I’m just proud of being a Latina.”

And having Latina idols is very important for someone like Fernandez, who remembers Monica Puig’s gold medal in the Brazil 2016 Rio Olympics as a defining moment. “I remember when Monica Puig won the gold medal in Brazil, that was super inspiring to me because she was probably one of the first Latinas from our generation that achieved something super big. And I remember watching it so clearly on TV, and when she won, I was just super happy because she’s not only Latina, but she’s also not as powerful as some of the players, not as big. And she was able to fight for what she believed in.”

Leylah Fernandez at the Hong Kong Open
Courtesy of Leylah Fernandez
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For Leylah Fernandez, the hope is that she can someday do that for someone else. “We’re not just playing for ourselves, but we’re also playing for our communities, to have them believe that yes, it is possible to achieve our dreams. And for me, I’ve always said that I want to inspire the next generation to achieve their dreams. Doesn’t matter if it’s tennis or if it’s football or even if they want to become an astronaut or a scientist. Like I truly believe that if we put our mind soul and heart into it, then we can achieve big things. And hopefully, with my tennis, I can do that.”

Next stop, the Paris 2024 Olympics.