India canters to Gold

| | Hangzhou
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India canters to Gold

Wednesday, 27 September 2023 | PTI | Hangzhou

India’s dressage team cantered to its first ever Asian Games gold and only second medal in this discipline in the history of the sport with the quartet of Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Vipul Hriday Chheda and Anush Agarwalla living up to expectations, here on Tuesday.

The Indian quartet was performing well in the selection trials as their scores either matched or were better than the Asian Games medal winners from the previous editions.

It was more about the colour of medal they would win and they grabbed the top place on the podium by aggregating 209.205 percentage points, leaving behind China (204.882 per cent) and Hong Kong (204.852 per cent).

The last time the sport of equestrian contributed to India’s Asian Games tally was in 1986 when the country won a dressage bronze.

In the 1982 edition in New Delhi, the Indian team had grabbed three gold medals in Eventing and Tent Pegging competitions.

Raghubir Singh had won a gold in individual Eventing in 1982 and then added another yellow metal in Team Eventing alongside Ghulam Mohammed Khan, Bishal Singh and Milkha Singh.

Rupinder Singh Brar won the third gold medal in individual Tent Pegging.

In dressage, the horse and rider are judged on how they perform a series of movements. Each movement is marked out of 10 (from 0 to 10).

Each rider gets an overall score and from there, a percentage is worked out. The rider with the highest percentage is the winner of his class.

Top three scorers in a team are counted to determine the winner.

It was a long and difficult journey for the Indian team which has an interesting mixture of riders. All of them left home at a young age and have been training in Europe separately for the last few years away from their family.

They took part in the Asian Games selection trials organised in Europe by the Equestrian Federation of India.

Their horses were quarantined in Aachen in Germany for seven days under strict rules before they were brought to China on September 21.

“It is unbelievable to win a gold here. It is not an easy journey for any of us. All of us have gone to Europe at a young age,” said the 21-year-old Sudipti, the youngest of the quartet.

“We have worked hard for many years away from our families. We have made a lot of sacrifices,” said Sudipti, who hails from Indore.

“All of us stuck together, shouting and supporting each other. I was the last to go in the competition and after a few riders after me, finally we realised that Team India has won a gold. That was a very emotional moment,” said the 23-year-old Anush, who left his home in Kolkata in 2017 to train in Europe.

“The national anthem was playing and the national flag was flying, there was no better feeling than that. It was all we had worked for and we realised our dream. The first gold medal for India in dressage,” said Anush. For Divyakriti, who is hailing from Jaipur, the achievement was also due to their horses.

“A big shout out to our horses also. We are nothing without them,” she said.

“It has been a long journey and not an easy one. None of us thought it (to win gold) but we gave our hundred per cent and we did it,” she added.

Sudipti currently trains at Pamfou in France. She began horse riding at the age of six as a hobby but later took it seriously as a sport on the insistence of her father. The name of her horse is Chinski.

Divyakriti took to horse riding when she was in the seventh grade at the famous Mayo College Girls School in Ajmer.

She was the equestrian captain of her school. She did her graduation in Delhi’s Jesus and Mary College. In 2020, she moved to Europe for training as equestrian infrastructure is not the best in India.

She was training at Hagen ATW in Germany before the Asian Games. She rides Adrenalin Firfod.

Anush, who hails from Kolkata, is currently based in Borchen in Germany. He developed his passion for horse riding after his parents took him to a club in Kolkata. He soon began having horse riding lessons at the age of eight. After having difficulties in finding a coach, he left India in 2017 and moved to Germany.

Anush became the first male dressage rider from India to compete at the world championships at the 2022 edition in Herning, Denmark. His horse’s name is Etro. Hailing from Mumbai, the 25-year-old Vipul, a business management degree holder from University of London, also began horse riding at a young age.

Since 2013, he began training with top foreign players in Europe.

Interestingly, he build a top-class riding facility and first breeding programme for dressage horses in the country. He rides Chemxpro Emerald.

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