Equestrian Usman to feature in Sydney3de to retain Olympic place

ISLAMABAD (APP): Pakistan’s Melbourne-based equestrian Usman Khan will be looking to retain his hard-earned Tokyo Olympics spot by obtaining Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) at this week’s qualification round in Sydney.
The Sydney International Three Day Event (Sydney3de), which is Australia’s oldest event is commencing on Friday at International Equestrian Centre, Horsley Park Sydney, New South Wales. “I’ll be trying my best to meet the MER. But right now I can’t comment until it is finished [qualifying round]. I need my nation’s prayers,” Usman told APP on phone from Sydney.
The 39-year-old shot to stardom when he secured an individual Olympics quota in Eventing in December 2019, becoming the first Pakistani in the county’s 73 years history to do so. Prior to him, Nadeem Noon (1965-2015) had won a place in the Athens 2004 Olympics via wild card, but he remained unable to feature in the event as his horse had got injured.
But after making a cut to the world’s biggest sports quadrennial extravaganza, Usman met with myriad challenges. His 13-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred horse, which he named “Azad Kashmir” died of a severe heart attack in September, last year, jeopardizing the eventer’s 15-year odyssey for the coveted event.
Then, he attended a qualification round in Sydney in February, this year where at one stage he was fourth after clear showjumping but tumbled to seventh place due to a slow cross-country show as both he and his new horse got injured. “We had got injured in the process, putting blood and sweat literally,” he said.
Last month, Usman was compelled to withdraw from a qualifying round in Wallaby Hill, New South Wales, Australia, as his horse suffered from high temperature. “That very badly affected our score in the first step in dressage on the inaugural day of the three-day event,” he said.
Usman is once again gunning for the Olympics place because it is necessary for an equestrian to also make his horse qualify for the event. “The death of Azad Kashmir devastated me. I had four other horses in my stable but none of them was its replacement,” said Usman, who had purchased Azad Kashmir at a staggering $740,000.
“But as an athlete, your job is to keep on striving hard. It is possible that the outcome may not always be what you want or like. I’m just doing what is under my control,” he added. According to Usman, he has spent around $3.5 million from his personal savings to pursue his equestrian career. “If you choose some unpopular sport in Pakistan, and that’s also expensive one, you’ve to manage it by yourself,” said Usman, who succeeded in finding his new equine partner in place of Azad Kashmir.
A must get MER at Sydney3de, will see him progressing to the last qualification round, also taking place in Australia in June. Obtaining MER in that event will mean that his Tokyo seat is confirmed. But that will also mean he still needs a lot of funds to materialize his dream of raising Pakistan’s flag high at the biggest sports event on earth. Equestrianism made its Olympics debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Then, it disappeared in the event until 1912, but since then it appeared at every edition of the Summer Olympic Games.
There are three equestrian disciplines scheduled for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021: dressage, eventing, and jumping. They are unique in two ways – equestrian events are the only ones on the Olympic programme involving animals, and they feature men and women competing with and against each other on equal terms.