India's equestrian bid in 2020 Olympics have mighty test ahead
Despite the historic twin silver medal feat by the Indian equestrian team as well as in the individual event at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, controversies refuse to take back seat in the system that governs the sport in the country.
One of the most surprising Asiad medallists for India was Fouaad Mirza, who won silver in the eventing category.
Mirza became the first Indian to win an individual equestrian medal at the Asian Games since Raghubir Singh, who had finished on the podium back in 1982 when New Delhi had hosted the Asiad.
The joy was doubled by the Indian team, comprising Mirza, Jitender Singh, Akash Malik and Rakesh Kumar, after they bagged silver in the same competition with a combined score of 121.30.
But what's next? Is anyone at the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) bothered about getting the same team qualify for the last two available spots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
Yes, the Embassy Group, based out of Bengaluru that runs the Embassy International Riding School here, is ready to take the responsibility of providing all kinds of support for the Indian team to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers, that take place from January to December next year.
But the Embassy Group's support for the team comes with a rider, which Jitu Virwani, the Group's Chairman and Managing Director candidly spoke out ahead of Sunday's 9th Equestrian Premier League (EPL) final.
"We had supported the Asian Games silver medallist team for their foreign training in France from January to May this year. While Mirza has been an integral part of our programme, the other three joined our foreign training programme only for four months before the Asiad and you can see the result," Jitu told reporters here.
"The credit also goes to coach Rodolphe Scherer, who managed to arrange six warmblood horses for their training in France in January. The next month our riders participated in an event in Lisbon before training under him for the next three months."
"We are not saying that the Sports Ministry isn't spending or there is a misuse of funds, the government is spending a lot but the problem lies in channelising the money in the right direction," he pointed out.
Jitu, who also is the EFI Vice President (Finance), however, made it clear that his group is willing to continue investing on training the silver medallist team of riders for the Olympic qualifiers, only if the federation and the ministry "guarantee" that the same set of riders are allowed to represent the country.
There are two spots up for grabs for the Tokyo Olympics, but India has to fight against the likes of South Africa, Thailand, China and Korea in the qualifiers.
Australia, New Zealand and hosts Japan have already qualified for the quadrennial event.
(With inputs from agencies.)