For countless generations, statues have been created to immortalize heroes; large marble replicas of traditional deities, bronze figures of war heroes, and stone carvings of presidents all serve to remind us of the legacy of the figures that shaped our lives.
In the 21st century, we now have toy dolls modelled after the people we idolize. They are smaller, easier to hold and can be played in a variety of ways; the perfect tool for children to remember today’s heroes.
Thanks to the success of one toy line, an athlete can now join a pantheon of new dolls to inspire new generations of Olympic hopefuls.
A will of iron
As a child, Francisca Mardones had dreams of becoming an Olympic champion.
Her dreams seemed shattered when Hurricane Lenny struck in 1999, while she was working at a resort in Puerto Rico. Amid raging winds and rain, she fell into a ravine, severely injuring her legs. Despite the excruciating pain, she pulled herself to safety in a bunker, enduring agony for two days before she was rescued.
After a long period of recovery, Mardones took up wheelchair tennis and has gone on to represent Chile in the Paralympic Games in London and Rio, as well as three Parapan American Games in Rio, Guadalajara and Toronto, landing her in the World No.11 position.
After a chronic injury to her neck in 2017, Mardones was forced to retire from wheelchair tennis, but she found new hope in javelin, discus and shot put.
“Throws were what I liked best and found similar to tennis,” she said. Her newfound spirits pushed Mardones to score a new world record for shot-putting in 2019.
With the postponement of the Paralympic Games in 2020, Mardones had to make amendments to her training. “It’s complicated, but if I work well I hope to reach the peak of my performance again in Tokyo,” said Mardones. “I want to be confident, comfortable and enjoy. But obviously it’s a dream of mine to win a Paralympic medal.”
Bolstered by Mardones’ successes, American toy company Mattel, best known for their Barbie doll lines, decided to commemorate her triumphs by creating a doll in her image.
The Francisca Mardones doll, which comes with its own wheelchair, is part of Mattel’s Barbie ‘Sheroes’ line. Launched in 2015, the line aims to commemorate real-life heroines to bolster young girls’ confidence to pursue their dreams. The line also includes dolls of other icons like tennis star Naomi Osaka and aviator Amelia Earhart.
With Mardones’ permission to give Mattel her wardrobe for detail, and sponsors to place the logos, Mattel was able to produce a doll that resembles the Paralympian.
“They may have depicted me more in my tennis playing era, and perhaps a few pounds lighter,” the Paralympian joked.
Mardones hopes that her Barbie doll will inspire children, teaching them that disability is not an obstacle in the path of their success.
“It’s a recognition of all the years of sacrifice I made for sports and the results of that,” Mardones said. “At the end of the day, what Mattel wants to highlight is not my disability, but my sporting achievements, and that means a lot.”
Regardless of the detail and accuracy of the toy, Mardones’ Barbie serves as a symbol of perseverance and hope. Families can make use of these toys to help inspire children to make the most of life.