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#ThisGirlCanVic - Mengxi Li

This Girl Can: Mengxi Li Mengxi Li, or Li as she prefers to be called, struggled for the first 12 months of her life in Australia as an international student until she found sport as her vehicle to happiness.

Mengxi Li, or Li as she prefers to be called, struggled for the first 12 months of her life in Australia as an international student. Wanting to socially integrate into her new home, but not knowing anyone outside of her small Chinese network in Melbourne, Li became depressed and withdrawn, until she found sport as her vehicle to happiness. However, it wasn’t without its challenges, especially since her previous experience with being an active woman in China was often frowned upon.

“Ladies don’t sweat! You’re a girl. You don’t need to be muscularly. You just need to look pretty”, says Li, recounting conversations with varied members of her inner and wider community in China. “They would still think, in my hometown, I’m a little bit fat; I’m not strong enough as someone doing sport.”

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“At the beginning I was telling myself, of yes. If they’re telling me to do this, then maybe I should stop. But … why? Why should I stop? Why should you judge other people for not having the values that you have?”

A keen skateboarder growing up, Li wanted to find another activity she could incorporate more easily into her life as a student. She decided to take up bike riding, initially to and from her university classes. But now, it’s her primary mode of transport.

“I rode my bike for about two or three months and I’m still trying to reach the big group every morning in St Kilda road. But for now, I’m still the slowest one. So I’m always with the people passing, ‘ok, ok I will get there. I will get there!’

“When I’m doing sport I feel sweaty and then it’s like my soul is telling me, ‘oh, you’re so good! Your energy is all here and you’re like the best person in the world! It’s freedom for me.”

At times she has struggled with racism, loneliness and being homesick for her family, but Li believes her new home has presented opportunities she would never have had and the confidence she has gained from taking on new challenges and feeling more physically and mentally healthier, has permeated every aspect of her life.

“In Australia I feel you can be any size, you can be any body type and you can still do sport. I can wear anything I want, I can do anything I want. I’m not hurting anybody and I’m not damaging anything, then I can do it and I shouldn’t be limited by the values of others. I have my own values. I create my own values.

"Sometimes it’s really hard to take the first step, but once you did it, it actually opens the door of the new world and you have no idea what you can achieve by yourself if you don’t do it. So just do it!”

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Li has joined the growing number of women who have been positively influenced by Vichealth’s, This Girl Can Victoria campaign, which Richmond Football Club is a proud partner of. She has been inspired by the stories of others and is determined to pursue her new path

“This girl can do whatever she wants. Regardless of the age, regardless of what you think of her. There’s a lot of things I want to do. I’m not going to stop! I’m going to do whatever it’s going to take.”

Richmond Football Club is a proud partner of VicHealth’s This Girl Can Victoria campaign, celebrating women who are all kinds of active. Women who are giving it their all, or giving it a go, but not giving a damn!