Chinese Olympic rider Hua Tian stays the course


TOKYO, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — The journey to Tokyo was destined to be special for Alex Hua Tian. It’s the third time for the Chinese rider to compete at the Olympic Games, but the first time that he has teammates in the eventing competition.

The 31-year-old finished in 25th in the eventing individual event after coming third in dressage but picking up a few time penalties in cross-country.

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“Proud to qualify for my second Individual Final and proud of the Don for jumping around the massive second track – even if we made some tired mistakes throughout,” Hua wrote on his social media account following the competition.

What made Hua more proud was that his country was ninth in their first-ever Olympic Eventing Team competition with all three athletes – Bao Yingfeng, Sun Huadong and Hua – in the top 40. “It’s remarkable,” he said.

Hua admitted that when the Chinese Equestrian Association discussed the possibility of team participation at the 2020 Olympics with him at the beginning of the Tokyo cycle, he really thought it was ‘too little too late.’

“But I have to be very positive about their efforts. And also my fellow riders from China who made that very important and key step to take, challenge themselves and come to Europe,” Hua told Xinhua last year.

Hua hailed his Chinese teammates for “putting a lot of effort, blood, sweat and tears” into the team qualification and gave them the opportunity to fight as a team on the Olympic stage for the first time.

“As an individual, in some ways you can be very focused on yourself, but as a team, it’s something that you can share the pressures with one another. You can talk about issues that you are having with the horses,” said Hua who competed twice at the Asian Games in a team and really enjoyed the experience.

Raised by a Chinese father and a British mother, Hua spent most of his childhood in the U.K. but has been the spearhead of Chinese eventing since he was young.

At the age of 18, Hua made his Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, becoming the youngest ever Olympian eventer.

He enjoyed the spotlight at the global sporting festival and drew attention from Chinese audiences, even though many of them knew little about equestrian sports. However, the fairytale journey ended unpleasantly as he fell off on the cross-country.

More than 12 years has passed, but Hua could still remember the disappointment brought about by the heartbreaking moment. However it also made him determined to pursue his eventing career.

Four years after the Beijing Olympics, Hua missed the qualification for London Olympics by a small margin but then bounced to an eighth finish four years later in Rio.

“To finish eighth was beyond my wildest dreams at that time,” Hua once said when recalling the Rio Games. “But the difficult thing is that’s difficult to replicate.”

The postponement of the 2020 Games due to COVID-19 inevitably affected Hua’s preparations.

“The Olympics [being] postponed for one year is quite tricky; as athletes we all knew what would happen before the IOC announcement,” Hua told Xinhua when he tried to make a summary of the year 2020.

“We spend our lives on these crazy four-year cycles in preparation for each Olympics, mentally and physically being able to let yourself come back off your peak, ready to build up one year later, it’s really difficult.

“But everybody in the whole world is disruptive, everybody has difficulties this year without any exception. So I think as athletes we tend to be pretty stoic, philosophical people able to roll with the punches.”

Hua had horses Don Geniro and Spike both qualify for the Games and made his decision to bring Don Geniro to Tokyo at the last moment.

“Horses have their own anxieties. They have their own worries, but horses are also amplifiers and mirrors of yourself. If you are nervous, if you are anxious, they will feel it and amplify it,” he said.

“So as a rider, you have to show leadership to your horse that actually is something that I feel comfortable and confident doing. And that’s the best way to help your horse be comfortable and confident as well.”

Hua said his participation in the individual event at Olympics was only half a step for China, while the team involvement was the real first step in China’s targets in the sport at the Olympics.

“It’s a sport that takes many, many years and many years of experience, not just as individual riders, but as an industry and as a structure. We still have a huge amount to learn.”

After the Rio Games, Hua tried to do more for Chinese equestrian sports as he was given more resources. “I didn’t feel that training one or two students at a time was impactful enough for me. What I wanted to do is to try and educate and I guess change perceptions on what the sport represents.”

“The Horsemanship Movement is something I am enormously passionate about,” Hua once said when introducing the charity program that he co-founded in 2017. “It encompasses so much that I believe in about life and about how amazing horses are for the character development of children.

“I feel so strongly that China can be a powerhouse in this sport in the future and that this sport has so much to offer to wider society,” concluded Hua.

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