Equestrian star Mirza set for first competition after lockdown

India’s Asian Games equestrian double-silver medallist Fouaad Mirza is set to participate in his first post-lockdown international competition next month. He will take part in the Eventing discipline in a CCI 3* S competition to be held in Oldenburg, Germany from June 11-14.

The event is being touted as a kickoff to the process of putting the sport back on the rails before they resume the remaining part of the qualifying schedule for the postponed Tokyo Olympics. “This current event that’s going to be held between June 11-14 is a CCI 3* S competition. It is going to be held in Germany in a region called the Oldenburg. It’s the first international show to be held in our sport in Eventing discipline. As of yesterday (Tuesday), it has cleared all of the checkpoints to run, it is definitely going to happen,” informed Mirza, who has secured berth for India at Tokyo Olympics but is seeking a personal quota confirmation as well.

The three-day Eventing discipline involves a cross-country race, dressage and show jumping in the stadium, all spread over three days. A CCI 3* S is a mid-level competition in which a cross-country race is held over a 2800–3600m course with 28-36 efforts (hurdles). The stadium part is run at a speed of 550 metres per minute (mpm) and has maximum of 14 efforts and 10-11 obstacles.

Mirza is currently stationed in Bergedorf, a sparsely populated village in Hamburg, Germany, and is training under Sandra Auffgarth since the start of the year. “With regards to preparing for it, I have always been training; my horses have not stopped training as well. Surely, the intensity of training had decreased but when this competition came up on the horizon, we started to pick up the ante,” said Mirza, who is a product of Embassy International Riding School, Bangalore, said. He will be competing on his new horse Dajara 4.

The entire equestrian community will be keenly following the event. “It is going to be interesting as this show is going to be used as a basis for other international shows to run successfully. If this show is successful and things work out well for the organising committee with regards to the whole pandemic, then they will get confidence to hold more and more shows and slowly open up the borders. This will allow us to compete abroad.”

Asked about his plans after the event, Mirza said: “We are right now taking it one show at a time as we don’t know if there will be another competition after this one. It all depends on what the situation is with regards to the virus. We can’t make any decisions because of it. If there are any spikes in cases or spikes in deaths in these areas, all shows will be cancelled again. These are strict rules and regulations that have been set by the government and the states in Germany. The health and safety of people comes first and that is of utmost importance.”

Mirza has not been much affected by the lockdown as it was business as usual for him albeit with focus on social distancing and personal hygiene. “The government recognises that, so the people working in the equestrian industry were allowed to continue work, the shops were allowed to remain open. Individuals working away from home—riders, grooms, vets were allowed to travel if they wanted to go home. So we kept training but the only difference was there were no competitions.”

The break is good for his horse Seigneur Medicott, which he rode to two silver medals in the 2018 Asian Games, allowing the horse ample time to recover from a suspensory ligament in his hind leg. “If it (Olympics) was this year, it would have been too early for him to recover. But now that they are postponed till next year, he’s got a bit more time to rehab and recover,” said Mirza.

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