Got to keep the heat on, says Fouaad after clinching MER for his mounts and booking ticket to Tokyo

Got to keep the heat on, says Fouaad after clinching MER for his mounts and booking ticket to Tokyo

In what can be termed as an agonising wait till the last minute, which tested man and mount, 2018 Jakarta Asian Games silver medallist Fouaad Mirza finally booked his ticket to the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday in Poland.

Fouaad and his mount Fernhill Facetime had become famous after the Asian Games. However, in the period after the Asiad, the Indian rider faced several anxious moments. Fernhill Facetime had to be retired and he had to get the MER (Minimum Eligibility Requirements) in Seigneur Medicott and Dajara 4 in virtually the last event at the Baborowko Equestrian Festival in Poland.

When this writer spoke to Fouaad in April, he was confident of qualifying in April. However, there were a few glitches there and his agonising wait continued. “I must say there was a lot of pressure going into this competition over the weekend in Poland. Ideally, I would have liked to get the MER earlier this year. Due to Covid and then an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus (EHP), it changed our plans a lot,” Fouaad told as he was driving back from Poland to Germany. Germany has been his home away from home for the last few years.

“Because of the Covid-19 situation, a lot of the equestrian events in Europe got cancelled. Even this event was on the break of being cancelled. I was able to keep the horses in good form despite all the drama. And I was very pleased with them, you know . Dajara, he has come out carrying superb form. There were just a few mistakes here and there in my last few competitions. That just happens and you got to keep pushing,” said a relieved and excited Fouaad, his voice carrying the joy of being able to represent the country in the Olympics for the first time.

“Well, eventually, you will  finish on the podium,” said Fouaad, talking about how he had to labour for this weekend.. Equestrian is a unique sport. It is not just about the rider being in prime form and fitness. The rider has to strike the right equation with his horses. Speaking about Medicott, Fouaad was effusive in praise. “He was out of the sport for two years. He came back and showed what a good horse he is. I am lucky I have these two horses and it shows what a partnership we have built,” added Fouaad.

The three-day challenge for Fouaad and his horses in Poland was one which tested not just physical but mental endurance as well. It was a combination of dressage, cross country, in a picturesque yet challenging course spread over 5.7km. It had 41 jumps and 29 obstacles. The final phase was long-eventing.

Summing up his journey till now, Fouaad said the excitement is good but he has to look at the big challenge in Tokyo. It has worked out in our favour till now. At the same time I am not going to step out of the kitchen. I have to keep the heat on and train hard,” said Fouaad.

As per his initial  plans, he expects to be in Tokyo around July 20. One has heard of quarantine regulations till now only for horses at the Olympics and Asian Games . This time around, in Tokyo, the athletes will also be under intense scrutiny — as to how they handle the hard Bio Bubble.

Fouaad may be  lacking Olympic experience but the way he has trained in Germany, the last few years, away from family and friends has been fascinating. It is time spent alone in harsh winters, lot of physical conditioning and doing things by oneself. The good part is it instils a great deal of confidence. All this would  not have been possible had it not been for the support which Fouaad has enjoyed from his sponsors Embassy Group in Bengaluru.

As for the Equestrian Federation of India, which is responsible for the sport, it has never done anything for its athletes. They have continued to bat for their own survival. If Fouaad has qualified, it is despite the despotic EFI.

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