India's Fouaad Mirza wins equestrian silver at Asian Games


India's Fouaad Mirza became the first Indian to win an individual medal in the equestrian event since 1982 at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Sunday. He won silver in the Eventing competition, finishing behind Japan's Oiwa Yoshiaki.

Additionally, India also won a silver in the team event in the same competition with a combined score of 121.30. The team comprised Fouaad, Jitender Singh, Akash Malik and Rakesh Kumar.

Topping the dressage and cross-country qualifiers with a score of 22.40, he went into the jumping finals as a favourite. Living up to the billing, he scored 26.40 to seal the silver medal position in the three-day competition.

India had previously won 10 medals in the sport, including three golds. The last individual medal in Eventing, however, came in 1982 when Raghubir Singh topped the table in New Delhi. That year, all three of the podium positions were awarded to Indians - Ghulam Mohammed Khan won silver while Prahlad Singh won bronze - in the event.

Fouaad's journey with horses began as a five-year-old, and he participated in his first competition -- a regional horse show -- just three years later. His father, Dr. Hasneyn Mirza, is one of the country's leading equine vets. The first Indian rider to post a victory in Europe, Fouaad has been training under German Olympian Bettina Hoy.

Training in UK and Germany since the last three years, Fouaad posted a winning performance astride Seigneur Medicott and a second-position finish with his other horse Cocky Locky at the first round of Asian Games trials.

The Indian equestrian team's journey to Jakarta was nothing less than a nightmare. The Equestrian Federation of India declared the selection and then declared it null and void as a result of infighting between office-bearers. In June, the Indian Olympic Association dropped the entire team from the contingent before a seven-member team was finally cleared by the Ministry. Their woes didn't end there. Accreditations were cleared only on the eve of their departure. Funnier still, horses were brought in from Chennai and Belgium to the Games venue but with no grooms to attend to them for hours together.

Eventing is essentially a three-day test of skill and endurance of the horse and rider. Dressage, considered the most artistic of the equestrian sports, takes place on the first day and is judged on a series of precise movements, the second and most demanding test is cross country which has participants gallop over a set distance jumping over a variety of obstacles including drop fences and water hazards. The third and final day is show jumping and in this round horse and rider are required to jump over a series of obstacles inside a course against a clock. The horse is required to jump and land cleanly and scores are based on jumps knocked down, falls, time penalties and refusals to jump.