Fouaad Mirza had scored 34 points on his first horse Fernhill Facetime and 30 with his second horse Touchingwood. (File)
For the first time in two decades, India will be represented in equestrian at the Olympics. Fouaad Mirza, who ended the country’s 36-year medal drought at the 2018 Asian Games, officially sealed his spot for the Tokyo Games on Tuesday. Come July, he will become the first Indian rider to compete at the Games since Imtiaz Anees, who was given a wildcard for the Sydney Olympics.
“I have been quite busy today with training and a friend of mine had a fall from a horse so we had to rush him to a hospital,” Mirza said moments after his qualification was confirmed by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.
New Delhi: Asian Games Silver Medalist Fouaad Mirza during the Asian Games winner felicitation ceremony, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)(PTI9_4_2018_000197B)
The qualification comes as a natural progression for Mirza. The 27-year-old, who comes from a family of horse breeders, Mirza, 27, shot to fame when he became the first Indian since 1982 to win an Asian Games individual medal in equestrian besides guiding the country to a second-place finish in the team competition in Jakarta two years ago.
Son of a veterinarian who specialises in treating horses, Mirza was attracted towards them as a child when he and his brother would accompany their father to races and understand the sport's nuances. But his ride to Tokyo wasn't without hurdles.
Apart from the problems within the federation, Mirza's task got complicated when, two years ago, the German gelding — Seigneur Medicott — he rode to win the Asiad medal got injured and was ruled out for the entire qualification period – January to December 2019.
Astride Medicott, first raced by Olympic medallist Betina Hoi, Mirza had made rapid strikes in the world rankings. Following the injury, though, the rider had to start from scratch with two new horses, Fernhill Facetime and Touchingwood.
Equestrian ranking system considers the rider and horse as a team. The Olympic qualification system depended on the overall ranking till the end of December to decide who made the cut, with top two riders from five zones being considered for qualification.
Topped the rankings
When the rankings were released on Tuesday, it was confirmed that Mirza topped the rankings in South East Asia and Oceania zone. Mirza, who was honoured with the Arjuna Award in August, finished with a total of 64 points from six qualifying events.
Late Wing Commander IJ Lamba was the first from the country to qualify for the Olympics, when he went for the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Since Anees’s appearance 20 years ago, though, India had gone unrepresented in equestrian at the Olympics. Mirza has changed that, and will become only the third Indian rider to compete at the Olympics.