BENGALURU: Ahead of the Asian Games, it was not clear almost till the last moment if India would field an equestrian team, due to discrepancies in selection. Finally, after much drama, a seven-member team got the nod from the ministry.
All eyes were on the experienced Fouaad Mirza, who became the first Indian to clinch silver in individual eventing after 36 years. In the team competition, India were represented by Mirza, Ashish Malik, Rakesh Kumar and Jitender Singh. They too won silver. Although the performance is noteworthy, coach Rodolphe Scherer is not happy with the way the sports is functioning in India.
“Everybody is happy that we won medals. But when I see equestrian in India, it is frustration. You have good riders, good army system, you spend money on the sport, but you do not have a place in the equestrian world. India is just another country in equestrian. That’s not normal. There is no clear plan,” said the Frenchman, who twice took part in the Olympics.
The problem for India is lack of quality facilities. Most of the riders come from the army, which has the infrastructure. But it does not meet the top-notch standards and is also not open to all civilian riders. Most of the riders have to travel abroad for training. For instance, Malik, Kumar and Singh went abroad for the first time in January to train ahead of the Games and returned with a medal.
“If you want to a win a medal, you need to have an objective of how to win a medal. There is so much money that the government is spending, but it lacks direction. Money spent on the horses is humongous and the money is going waste. The government can plan it correctly and then we can compete.
“Somehow the federation, the army, the government, need to put the functioning together,” said Jiti Virwani, chairman and managing director of Embassy Group, which sponsored the Games equestrian team to Jakarta.
There are only a few private facilities in India, which can be called top notch. The Embassy International Riding School rated by people as one of those. But problems do not end there. The quality of horses is not great despite money being spent. Officials can look at various methods like importing semen of quality horses, and produce horses in India. There are changes that need to happen for Indians to make a mark in the map of world equestrian.
“There are quite a few facilities in India, but the private facilities are very few and this one (in Embassy International Riding School) is the best you will find. The army has a lot of space and lot of manpower to put up stands and arenas, but the quality of the surface and the footing is not to international standards,” said Mirza.