Dani G. Waldman, Shameless Original
With the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo to his name, Dani Goldstein Waldman is a champion in more than one way. An activist for gender equality in sport, this feather-haired beauty believes that you should never apologize for being yourself.
Dani, tell us a bit about yourself.
It could be a long story! I grew up in New York in a very Zionist family. I started horseback riding at the age of 8 and in 2010 I acquired my Israeli nationality and started representing Israel in international competitions. I moved to the Netherlands in 2013 and have lived there ever since!
Your love for horses began when you were eight years old.
Yes it’s done ! I immediately fell in love – I have always been an animal lover, but I was hooked from day one.
Do you have a particular horse that you prefer over others and why?
No, I like them all equally. They are all professional athletes in their own right, so I don’t favor one over the other.
Equestrian sport is not without its twists and turns – have you ever broken anything and if so, what?
Fortunately, I didn’t break anything (I’m touching wood saying that ;-). But I was stepped on with a metal crampon during the competition warm-up when I was about 17, and I have a huge scar on my leg.
Congratulations! You have been chosen as a member of the team to represent Israel at the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics. Is that a dream come true?
I was part of the team that helped get Israel’s Olympic ticket and then I was chosen to be part of the Olympic team. Even just qualifying was an incredible dream come true for me and for the State of Israel.
What is the routine for preparing for an event?
Preparation begins many years in advance and involves an entire team, but the most important thing is to ensure that the horse is healthy and fit to compete. Usually a week later we start to prepare by skipping a few exercises at home and making sure the horse will peak at the right time. Then on the day of the test, I have my specific routine, which is adapted to each horse differently, and finally, I prepare myself mentally by resuming my course 3 times; I take 3 deep breaths and always try to remember to look where I’m going, not where I don’t want to go!
How do you manage to stay calm under pressure before a big event?
It’s always such a difficult question… part genetics, part preparation, and basically always trying to remember that it’s just another day at the office. I try to focus on the things I can control like the horse listens if I have practiced enough, how I execute my plan and I try to ignore the things I cannot control like unforeseen problems .
Guess patience is a virtue even in the horse racing world?
Well technically we don’t run… we are riders! But yes, patience is a virtue in all things in life … especially when it comes to living animals.
Should there be more gender equality in sport?
Absolutely yes, 100%. Men, women and everyone in between deserve equal opportunities in sport.
Tell us about feathers.
There is so much to tell! They are above all a fashion and a way for me to express my individuality. I’ve always been the type to change my look and after getting golden rose and blue hair I wanted to do something different, and my husband suggested that I do feathers. I then had this vision in my head of what it could become – it started with 200 feathers and now I have over 3000 individual feathers in my hair. It takes me about 50 hours to do a color set (which I change about every 3 months) and about 5 hours for the stylist to set up at the salon like regular hair extensions. I wash them as usual and sleep (uncomfortably) but very well!
A pilot’s license! We want to know more !
I love collecting skills and what a perfect skill to have, just in case ;-)!
Other than horses, what is your passion in life?
Fashion and cuisine. And lately educating people about horse world as much as possible – especially trying to make our world more accessible and inclusive.
You have traveled for business and for pleasure. Which places left a lasting impression and why?
Wow, there have been so many places! I love Shanghai, especially the canal towns about 45 minutes from the city which are those pristine towns frozen in time in the most beautiful way! Cape Town, Sydney, Desolation Sound in Canada to name a few …
Where is the house?
Wherever my horses and my husband are.
What effect has the pandemic had on your life?
Like everyone else, it touched every facet of my life. On a positive note, I had more time for the family and getting back to the basics of driving, which is often overlooked when you’re on the road competing all the time. It was great to reflect on why I started riding… the daily joy of little progress.
How have you incorporated body positivity, authenticity, and self-acceptance into your life?
In all possible ways. I have always followed my own path in life, but over the past few years I have really grown to love the person I have become – my body, my personality, a lot of things that we all struggle with in our youth. and early adulthood. I read a quote the other day that I loved – “I don’t love myself, I’m CRAZY for myself” (by Mae West). It really sums up the way I see my identity; it takes a bit of blind madness to accept myself, but radical acceptance is part of how I integrate my authentic self into my daily life. And in the end, when I feel better about myself, everything is better in my life – my relationships, my career and most of all my confidence in the competitive ring which translates into success.
You practice yoga. What were the benefits?
I am the stiffest person in the world. I can barely touch my knees so it really helps with flexibility.
You also love to cook and have your own cooking show on Instagram.
Yes, I like to cook. I love to come home and peek in the pantry and create something delicious. I also like to cook for large groups of people; for example, i always cook for everyone on my birthday because i like it a lot.
Thoughts of farewell?
Never apologize for being yourself. Accept it and accept your mistakes – vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness!