India’s third gold medal of the Games so far is honestly the most unexpected one, which is one of the many reasons why it warmed hearts the most.
Asian Games Breaking: India win historic gold in Equestrian Team event
From being unfamiliar figures among the Indian contingent, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda, Anush Agarwalla and Sudipti Hajela became the names flashing on news channels, followed by a scamper for information about the medallists, their background stories, contact numbers and what not.
It is the first time in 41 years that the Indian National Anthem played at an equestrian arena at the Asian Games. Simple and apparent, but how beautifully heartwarming is that for a fact.
It last happened in 1982, when India topped the equestrian podiums in not one but three events – -individual eventing, team eventing and individual tent pegging.
41, for that matter, is a figure resting in very recent Indian memory. In Tokyo two years ago, the men’s hockey team returned to the Olympic podium after 41 years.
This gold in equestrian is nothing less, even if we know that Olympics is a different field and level altogether on horseback.
“India has won gold, not us,” said Anush to express the collective feeling of the quartet. Sudipti’s points were not among the top three that are considered in the cumulative total to decide the final rankings. But it didn’t diminish the camaraderie within the group, with all four wearing gold medals around their neck.
For the record, Anush top-scored with 71.088, followed by Hriday 69.941 and Divyakriti 68.176 for a total of 209.205. Sudipti’s total points read 66.706. But it won’t be a complete description without the mention of Chinski, Adrenalin Firfod, Chemxpro Emerald and Etro. What is a rider without the horse!
China won silver and the bronze medal went to Hong Kong.
Starting early, owning horses, training in Europe or America are some of the common refrains found in conversation with most successful riders. It’s nothing different with this quartet, and, in fact, it is what the sport demands. But a bitter truth also is that in a country like India, such demands will ensure that it doesn’t become a common man’s sport.
Only the Madhya Pradesh State Equestrian Academy in Bhopal flashes in mind among the recent infrastructure of note developed in the sport and made available to those who earlier always considered it to be a sport out of bounds.
Every medal inspires, so will the equestrian gold, but the truth also is that the sport calls for accessibility.
Sudipti, who used to train at the academy in Bhopal, couldn’t agree more.
“I think it requires a lot of outside help also, not just your own finances. Personally, my parents support me a lot, and so does the Madhya Pradesh government. But I don’t think it’s something very easy for one to get a horse and then take care of it, especially (stabling) in a foreign country.
“So it is very difficult to (make the sport) accessible to everyone, it requires a lot of help.”
On top of that is the controversy that the Equestrian Federation of India rides like the horse’s back, especially every time an important international event is around.
But today, that can be left for discussion on another day.
This gold medal calls for a long celebration.