Girls are twice as likely than boys to stop playing sports. Tessa Virtue wants to change that

Young Toronto skaters got the shock of their lives when Olympic ice dancing champion Tessa Virtue showed up at their practice.

Virtue, who rose to fame at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, surprised the young athletes at the McCormick Arena in Toronto on Monday in celebration of the launch of her new Barbie doll.

The doll is part of Barbie’s Dream Gap Project, which honours “women who are breaking boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls” and includes over 40 role models from 18 countries.

“Nothing is impossible,” Virtue, 30, told the skaters. 

“It’s just a lot of hard work. But if it’s something that you’re eager to pursue and you’re passionate about, then you do the work, commit to the process and surround yourself with a good team.”

Virtue’s Barbie doll is dressed in an ice dancing costume inspired by her 2018 Olympic Winter Games look. It is among other dolls, including para-athlete wheelchair racer Madison de Rozario, fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad and tennis player Naomi Osaka.

The Mattel project aims to raise awareness around the limitations that prevent girls from reaching their full potential in sports. 

Virtue and her 32-year-old ice skating partner Scott Moir captured hearts worldwide following their gold-medal-winning Moulin Rouge performance at the 2018 Winter Games. She said it is important to use her platform to pay it forward to aspiring athletes.

“I’ve benefited from really powerful women who have inspired me,” Virtue said in an interview with Global News. 

“I see the stress that young kids are faced with these days and everyone needs a boost. Everyone needs someone to believe in them. Everyone needs a reminder that they’re good enough exactly the way they are.”

The high rates of girls quitting sports is another reason to support young girls with big dreams, Virtue said.

By age 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports compared with boys, according to a Women’s Sports Foundation study. 

“It’s a heartbreaking stat,” Virtue said.

“If we can combat that with some programs that allow people to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle, there’s so much self-esteem to be gained.”

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