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Sports

December 16, 2019

Equestrian Usman Khan to take part in Tokyo Olympics

Sports

Mon, Dec 16, 2019

Karachi: Equestrian is an Olympic sport which involved a rider and a horse. A sport which is still not followed much in Pakistan. But, we have an Olympic qualifier in Equestrian – Usman Khan, who will represent the country in Tokyo Olympics.

Usman, along with his horse “Azad Kashmir”, confirmed his qualification earlier this month after achieving minimum required score for the contest.

He has now set his eyes on keeping Pakistan’s flag high at the Tokyo Olympics.

“This is not a matter of simple qualification, it’s the journey of spirited and ambitious Pakistan,” he told geo.tv after his qualification.

“Tokyo 2020 is 6 months away, we have a lot to-do. We must retain top two positions in Group-F. My goal is to keep Azad Kashmir fit and healthy. We are working closely with the coach Michelle and vet Rohan to make sure our competition itinerary is balanced. It’s true that Azad Kashmir is a voice of people of Pakistan,” he said about horse Azad Kashmir.

Lahore born Usman is currently based in Australia and working in IT sector. In a “one sport country” Usman once wanted to be an Army officer but couldn’t achieve his dream.

Devastated on not being selected in Army, he decided to opt for other ways to serve country.

“My father took us for riding lessons at army riding school in Lahore when I was 7-8 yrs old. I wanted to join army but couldn't get in. There were other ways to serve Pakistan. No one knew Eventing but knew horses jump at the Olympics. If you want something as much as you want to breathe than there is no Plan B. That was our humble beginning and Roadmap to Olympics was core motivation,” he highlighted.

Usman mentioned that his road to Olympics is a 15 year journey and as first step to this long journey, which included several obstacles, he left his scholarship at Monash University in Australia.

“I left my scholarship and came into the sport of Eventing with one vision to take Pakistan to Olympics,” he said while adding that it was an ambitious and risky adventure which was never a popular decision.

“In fact for next 5 years we failed miserably in everything we did. In the process I broke my leg during riding accident and wasn’t able to ride for few years. We soon had no money, I had to sleep most days in car/motel, worked small jobs. I had one horse, which I use to feed 7 days a week and myself 3 days,” he said while adding that during this period he had isolated himself from everyone.

Usman mentioned that equestrian is easily the most expensive sport at the Olympic level.

Replying to a question, the acclaimed Pakistani horse-rider added that despite series of failures he remained stick to his plan and only thing that kept all together was his faith as he believed that hard work always pays.

“I have never used the sport to make money and never promoted my name, you will always read Pakistan Eventing while Usman Khan was never to exist. It was all about Pakistan and creating a soft image of Muslim community. With a firm believe when I am gone, that the spirit of Pakistan Eventing will always live under the banner of Equestrian Federation of Pakistan,” he said.

Usman earlier participated with horse named Al-Buraq and within 2 years they had entered the FEI circuit but then Al-Buraq got injured and Usman had to start everything again.

“We needed another horse,” he recalled.

“It takes 1 to 2 years to understand a new horse that allows you the ability to be competitive at international level. We decided to take the risk with the aim to qualify within 6 months of FEI deadline. I bought New Zealand thoroughbred in April 2019 and named him ‘Azad Kashmir’ after the People of Kashmir,” Usman said.

The soon-to-be Olympian added that he achieved the qualification in last six months and that was possible only after some important decisions.

“I fell off during an event in Melbourne in June which led to life changing decision and resigned from senior position in Australian Government to focus solely on Olympic qualification rounds. We consumed our life savings in the process,” Usman mentioned.

Usman added that due to lack of FEI events he requested EA NSW to open FEI classes to allow him to compete and for that he was thankful to Australian authorities.

Talking about his qualification process, Usman mentioned that he came 6th in FEI CCI 2 Star and followed by 2nd position in FEI CCI 2 Star and 1st place at FEI CCI 3 Star.

“There was intense pressure to come back at FEI CCI 4 star level. We soon were competing at FEI CCI 4 star in Sept, we finished 15th with the first qualification achieved. We finally qualified FEI CCI 4 long format, the last event of 2019 which was an Olympic Qualifier. We have never reached this level in our competitive history, we were so inexperienced but had only and chance, Allah empowered me and Azad Kashmir and we successfully secured Olympic qualification,” he said.

Usman revealed that he has invested millions form his own pocket during list 15 years to achieve Olympic qualification.

:I have invested Rs.28-30 crores in the last 15 years towards running training camp in Australia. Do we have another athlete in the history of competitive sport in Pakistan who has invested that much money from his own pocket? I have remained sponsor-less and neither I have chased anyone. All my competition fee, vet bills, coaching, accommodation and international travels are self-funded,” he said.

“I can always return to workforce but it will take away the 100% focus and dedication required to be an Olympic athlete. I need to find revenue to empower Team Pakistan that includes my coach, vet, groom and horse travel to Tokyo, I think it is now state responsibility. The hard work to qualify is done. Let us now focus on securing funds to cover our training and travel expenses to Tokyo 2020 where Pakistan is to enter for the first time in equestrian history,” Usman highlighted.