Thrills Await as 17 Nations Gallop into 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou

Anush Agarwalla of India riding Etro practices ahead of the equestrian competition during the 19th Asian Games on September 24, 2023, in Hangzhou, China.
Copyright ©FEI/Yong Teck Lim

The countdown has begun for the much-anticipated 19th Asian Games, set to start this week, promising a spectacular showcase of equestrian excellence.

17 National Federations – China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, Syria, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan are sending over 100 skilled athletes and horses to compete in a prestigious event that holds immense significance for equestrian sports across the Asian continent.

Returning Champions and New Hopefuls

Equestrian sports made their grand debut at the Asian Games in 1982, during the New Delhi Games where the team and individual Eventing and individual Jumping categories were introduced, with team Jumping and team and individual Dressage being added to the lineup at the succeeding 1986 Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea.

The last edition of the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang in 2018 saw Hong Kong’s Jacqueline Siu clinching the gold in the individual Dressage competition with her gelding, Jockey Club Fuerst on Tour. She’s gearing up for another stellar performance, this time with her trusty partner, Jockey Club Huittharien, an 11-year-old mare currently ranked 76th in the FEI Dressage World Rankings. Siu, based in Oxfordshire, UK, hones her skills under the tutelage of Dressage legend Carl Hester from Great Britain.

Japan emerged victorious in the team Dressage category during the previous Asian Games, but this year, an entirely new Japanese team is heading to Hangzhou. The individual Eventing title was claimed by Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa on Bart L JRA, with the Japanese team also securing team gold. A key member of the winning squad in 2018, Kenta Hiranaga, is back again in Hangzhou on his gelding, Duke of Sussex.

In individual Jumping, Kuwait’s Ali Al Khorafi clinched the gold in 2018 and is back looking for more glory, this time riding the 10-year-old gelding, I, by Dantos. Saudi Arabia secured the gold in the team Jumping category at the same Games, and now has two riders from the previous winning team – Abdullah Sharbatly and Ramzy Al Duhami – returning to compete on different horses.

Four Nations, Three Disciplines

China, Hong Kong, India, and Japan are poised to bring the heat, each fielding teams in all three equestrian disciplines – Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping. The Eventing competition, in particular, boasts five teams battling it out across the three phases, while the Jumping competition sees a robust lineup of 12 teams, with 10 teams vying for victory in Dressage.

The Unpredictable Quest for Gold

With such a wealth of top Asian equestrian talent at this year’s Games, the medallists could be anyone’s guess. In the individual Dressage category, Korea has traditionally dominated, with riders like Suh Jung-Kyun, Choi Jun-Sang, and Hwang Young Shik securing two gold medals each since the discipline’s inception at the Games. Korea has also displayed stellar teamwork, clinching multiple gold medals in team Dressage over the years.

In the Eventing category, individual gold medalists have hailed from various countries, with Japan boasting four gold medals in the last eight Games, including a double win by Yoshiaki Oiwa. Japan also achieved the same feat in team Eventing.

When it comes to Jumping, again, Japan has shone the brightest in the individual events since the Games’ inception. However, the Saudi Arabian team has exhibited remarkable consistency over the past four years, capturing gold in 2006 (Doha), 2010 (Guangzhou), and 2018 (Jakarta-Palembang), plus silver in 2014 (Incheon).

Action-Packed Schedule

The equestrian action kicks off with Dressage at 15:00 local time on September 25, featuring the first horse inspection. The Prix St Georges test for both team and individual competitions will take place the following day at the Tonglu Equestrian Centre, with team medals being awarded.

September 27 sees the Individual Intermediate I competition followed by the second horse inspection and the Intermediate I Freestyle the next day to determine individual medallists.

The Eventing unfolds with the first horse inspection on 29 September at 08:00 local time, followed by the Dressage events for team and individual competitors the following day. Sunday 1, October sees the cross country phase kicking off at 08:00, with the second horse inspection, Jumping phase and medal ceremony for both teams and individuals on Monday 2, October.

Jumping enthusiasts can mark their calendars for October 3 when the first horse inspection launches the competition. The real showdown begins on October 4, with individuals facing two intense qualifier rounds and the teams battling it out in their first and final jumping rounds, culminating in a riveting team final.

The equestrian festivities conclude on Friday October 6 following the second horse inspection the day prior, with the individual competitions and medals at stake.

One thing is certain – the 19th Asian Games will deliver an incredible spectacle, featuring fierce competition, fresh faces, and seasoned contenders partnered with some of the finest equine athletes from across Asia.

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