Michelle Payne has had a busy year! She recently became the first female jockey (horse racer) ever to win the Melbourne Cup at Flemington. Besides a huge trophy and tons of acclaim (praise), Payne also won $4.2 million. The Melbourne Cup is one of the biggest horse races in the world, and is even called “the race that stops a nation.”
Being a jockey runs in Michelle’s family. She is the youngest of ten children, and seven of them are also professional jockeys. When she was five years old, she was riding the family pony, and she started racing when she was fifteen—the youngest age allowed! But even though she clearly has jockeying in her genes, many people doubted her because she is woman. “Being a female jockey is difficult,” Payne said. “In some ways it can be easier, because you get more publicity if you do well because you’re female in a male-dominated sport, but it’s always a battle.”
Michelle Payne kept trying, though, and became a champion jockey in a sport that did not believe in her at first. She says that now she even gets recognized on the street, and people will stop her and congratulate her on her big win. “Just walking down the street now people will say, ‘Do I know you?’ And a lot of time I’ll say, ‘Oh no I’ve got one of those faces.’ But they usually work it out. It’s been pretty crazy but it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve experienced some amazing things.”
Michelle Payne hopes that her success will encourage other kids to pursue their dreams, even in a sport that is new to them. She has written a book about her life, called Life As I Know It, and a movie is being made about her life, also!