FRESNO, California. (KSEE) – The Opening Ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics are just two days away, and tonight we take a deeper look into a Central Valley native that is competing but not alongside Team USA.
Two-time Olympic athlete Lauren Billys, both a Redwood High School and Fresno State alum, will be riding for Team Puerto Rico.
“Without a doubt, my heart is with Puerto Rico,” said Billys. “It is where my family is from, and it is a part of who I am. There is no way I won’t be riding underneath that flag unless we become a 51st state.”
Billys first fell in love with riding horses in Woodlake, California as a child.
“She is a very determined and competitive person and the fact that she has really taken it to this level is just amazing to me.”
Billys’ grandmother lived in Puerto Rico.
“She is everything that embodies Puerto Rico,” said Billy. “She has got pink lipstick, blonde hair. She is fierce and feisty.”
Billys’ heritage made her eligible for dual citizenship and to compete for Team Puerto Rico.
She and her horse Purdy have competed with Puerto Rico since 2009 including the 2016 RIO Olympics.
“So when I dropped down into the ramp on that day of competition in RIO knowing that my horse was 100% behind me on his best behavior, it was quite magical.”
Even though Billys won’t represent Team USA, her family, and the Central Valley rooting for Billys on her quest for gold.
“For her to be here at this point,’ said Lauren’s sister Alyssa. “It shows her value and the relationships she has had in her life and that this isn’t just a sport that is representing her, when she is at the Olympics, it’s about the people who are in her syndicate. It is about all of the people who have supported her and I think that is what makes this sport so much richer.”
Billys will compete in the eventing portion of the Equestrian Events. The 3-day competition starts on July 31 and ends on August 2nd.