Nestled in the mountains of quaint Northern Germany where December brings with it the soft trespassing of snow, Indian equestrian Fouaad Mirza is quietly training with his five horses in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. After nearly two decades of waiting for India, the 27-year-old boy from Bangalore has claimed two Olympic berths in the individual equestrian sports discipline. A double silver medallist at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, Mirza has reopened the avenues for India to gallop into the equestrian sports field once again.
A restless tinge of excitement in his voice, Fouaad is overcome with a surreal feeling at the prospect of being selected by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to represent the country in the individual Eventing category of equestrianism at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Training in winter conditions under Sandra Auffgarth, a former World Number 1 and erstwhile World Champion, the Arjuna awardee conveyed, “It gets very cold here. It keeps raining all the time,” notwithstanding such restraints, Fouaad ensures that, “Hard and quiet work is going on for the Olympics here.” Staying away from his family, Fouaad relies on his horses to give him company and brave the challenging weather.
While the weather can be a bother on some occasions, Fouaad has adopted a different mentality to tackle such situations. “Once my trainer told me that it’s not bad weather but bad clothing which is the issue. If you have warm clothes, you should be fine,” he mentions candidly. The civilian rider has mounted the success ladder early in his life and is the first non-military representative to have won two Olympic berths for India. “We’ve got India a slot this year. That means that we have qualified India for Tokyo 2020. Next year, it will be the job of the IOC to send us,” he explains.
The IOC will have the final say and holds the right to choose any other rider who has the qualification to compete at the level Fouaad Mirza is competing. However, there isn’t anybody in the farsight of the 27-year-old who has finished first and second in the ranking boxes for the Olympic qualifiers in Poland. In fact, Mirza has ranked the highest in Group G of South East Asia and Oceania zone, which should make him the most obvious choice for India. Mirza, finished with a total of 64 points from six qualifying events. He scored 34 points on his first horse Fernhill Facetime and 30 with his second horse Touchingwood. “As there is nobody else riding at this level from India, they might consider me for it,” Mirza relayed hopefully.
With a flurry of adulations doing the round as Mirza becomes the first man in two decades to win an Olympic berth for the equestrian in the country, the Bangalore boy is elated, “The first man in 20 years, woah,” he exclaims, “I’m happy and all-focussed for it. I want to do really well there,” he says with determination his voice. Although he hasn’t been funded by the government yet, the student of Embassy Group still nurtures expectations from the Equestrian Federation of India while he trains far-off in Germany, removed from the complexities involved.
The road is not all that smooth for the young equestrian as his main horse, Seigneur Medicott suffered injuries earlier this year and he has had to work and train with new horses. The preparations for it have to be done extra carefully but Mirza is confident, “Firstly, I have four horses who could campaign for me in Tokyo next year. I have to choose which horse will suit the climatic conditions up there. Each horse has a different way of being prepared. I am just trying to plan it ahead of time and training them now,” he elaborates.
There are several hurdles that come Mirza’s way but he has learned to take them in his galloping stride. Mirza doesn’t shy from revealing the obstacles, “Too many challenges are there. Every day poses a different challenge. It would be a lie if I said I don’t face challenges,” he frankly mentions. “Last year when my winning horse, Seigneur Medicott suffered injuries, it was a huge setback for me. He was the frontrunner for me,” the Arjuna Awardee conveys. “It was like participating in a Formula One race without the front two tires. You can’t race like that,” he confesses. However, possessing a calm composure, Mirza assures that, “Currently, things are running smoothly and I don’t put too much attention on the minor hiccups.”
With the official confirmation from the IOC due to arrive on 20th February 2020, Fouaad Mirza will keep himself busy training amidst the lofty snow-clad mountains in North Germany and preparing for the rare opportunity to represent the nation in Tokyo next year. Earlier, only Wing Commanders Indrajit Lamba and Imtiaz Anees had participated in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics respectively. All eyes will rest on Mirza as he rides his gallant steed into Tokyo, in the knightly quest for a maiden Olympic medal come July next year.