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Equestrian star Hua raring to saddle up at third Games

China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-22 09:00
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Alex Hua Tian. [Photo provided to CHINA DAILY]

TOKYO-China's star eventing rider Alex Hua Tian touched down in Tokyo full of confidence and enthusiasm for his third Olympic Games.

Hua, who became the world's youngest Olympic eventer at the 2008 Beijing Games, flew from London to Tokyo's Haneda Airport before checking into the Olympic Village on Monday night.

"When you're traveling from the UK where the incidence of coronavirus is growing very quickly at the moment, I do feel safe," said Hua. "That is the honest answer."

"From the moment I arrived here, every single athlete that I've seen has been exceptionally responsible in how they are handling it. You can get the feeling that every athlete is genuinely grateful that the Olympic Games is happening."

Hua said that after landing in Tokyo, "99 percent of the work is done, and 99.5 percent of the work will be done when the horse lands safely".

The journey for his horse, Don Geniro, with whom he finished eighth at the Rio Olympics, proved much more complicated than his own trip, largely because of complications related to Brexit. The horse had to travel from Britain to Belgium before waiting for a connecting flight to Tokyo.

"We were just so stressed about the paperwork," Hua said of the difficulties of transporting the horse from Britain to the European Union. "It has been a nightmare from beginning to end." He added that Don Geniro is expected to arrive on Thursday.

Compared with the COVID-19 threat, Hua is more worried about Tokyo's extreme weather. The Japanese capital is famous for summer temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s, accompanied by smothering humidity. In July 2018, when a heatwave struck the country, temperatures rose to 40 degrees Celsius.

"The hot weather will be really difficult," Hua said. "The temperature will have an enormous impact on who will do well and who won't do well. I have never encountered this level of humidity before. I would say all of the riders here in all three disciplines do not know how they will perform in this heat."

Unlike his first two Olympic Games, Hua, who has a Chinese father and an English mother, will not have any family members in attendance at the Olympic equestrian venue, with only his horse's groom traveling with him from London.

"It's very sad," Hua said. "But I hope, speaking for all the athletes, that we totally understand the reasons. We are totally supportive of it, and we'll do everything we can to deliver a safe Games.

"But equally, at the same time, we will all be saddened that we can't have any spectators and that, of course, includes all of your friends and family and loved ones that normally are able to share in the experience with you and share the achievements with you.

"We've known that for 18 months now, we will accept that, but I will be very happy if the next Olympic Games goes back to normal."

Hua, who became the first Chinese equestrian rider to compete at the Olympics in 2008, is entered in both the individual and team events in Tokyo after China sent an eventing squad to the Games for the first time.

Competing mostly in Europe, he is relishing the opportunity to do his country proud once more.

"I couldn't attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics because the equestrian competition was staged in Hong Kong," he said. "But I loved the opening ceremony in Rio. If there's an opportunity for me to go to the opening ceremony here, I will always be happy to go."


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