Asian Games: India win first ever team gold in equestrian dressage

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India won it's first-ever gold medal in the team dressage event of the Asian Games, with Anush Agarwalla (Etro), Hriday Vipul Chheda (ChemXPro Emerald), Divyakriti Singh (Adrenalin Firfod) and Sudipti Hajela (Chinski) claiming top spot ahead of China and Hong Kong on Tuesday in Hangzhou.

The best three scores of the quartet added up to 209.905 (Anush Agarwalla/Etro with 71.088, Hriday Vipul Chheda/ChemxPro Emerald with 69.941 and Divyakriti Singh/Adrenalin Firfod with 68.176 while Sudipti Hajela/Chinski's score of 66.706 wasn't counted), with China scoring 204.882 and Hong Kong scoring 204.852.

This is India's 14th medal of the Asian Games so far, and the third gold.

It is also India's first gold medal in equestrian sports since the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi where the event made its debut, and India won three golds in Individual eventing, tent pegging and Team Eventing. India's last team medal in the dressage event happened in the 1986 Asian Games, when Jitendarjit Singh Ahluwalia, Ghulam Mohammed Khan and Raghubir Singh won bronze.

India are also in the fray for medals in individual dressage, with Hriday Vipul Chheda (3rd) and Anush Agarwalla (2nd) in the Top 3, behind Jacqueline Wing Ying Siu of Hong Kong who is leading the pack. Divyakriti Singh was eighth while Sudipti, who had lead the early part of the event (and even produced an exuberant celebration with her horse, Chinski) eventually finished 16 in the standings.

The Individual dressage event continues over the next two days, with an intermediate stage as well as the medal stage on the 28th of September. India have never won an individual dressage medal in the Asian Games.

India won two medals in equestrian events in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, with Fouaad Mirza winning silver in individual eventing and was also part of the team that won silver in the team eventing (Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Malik, Jitender Singh). India did not send a dressage team for the 2018 Asian Games, as only two riders had achieved the qualification score (including Anush Agarwalla), but not the minimum three.

What is dressage?

The dressage event in equestrian is where the horse and the rider perform a series of pre-determined movements from memory. The competition consist of a series of individual tests with an increasing level of difficulty.

Each movement in each test receives a numeric score from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest) from each of the judges and the resulting final score is then converted into a percentage, which is carried out to three decimal points. The higher the percentage, the higher the score.

Who are the Indian riders and their horses?

It has been long and difficult journey for the Indian team which has an interesting mixture of riders.

All of them left home at a young age and have been training in Europe separately for the last few years away from their family. They took part in the Asian Games selection trials organised in Europe by the Equestrian Federation of India. Their horses were quarantined in Aachen in Germany for seven days under strict rules before they were brought to China on September 21.

"It is unbelievable to win a gold here. It is not an easy journey for any of us. All of us have gone to Europe at a young age," said the 21-year-old Sudipti, the youngest of the quartet.

"We have worked hard for many years away from our families. We have made a lot of sacrifices," said Sudipti, who hails from Indore.

"All of us stuck together, shouting and supporting each other. I was the last to go in the competition and after a few riders after me, finally we realised that Team India has won a gold. That was a very emotional moment," said the 23-year-old Anush, who left his home in Kolkata in 2017 to train in Europe.

"The national anthem was playing and the national flag was flying, there was no better feeling than that. It was all we had worked for and we realised our dream. The first gold medal for India in dressage," said Anush.

For Divyakriti, who hails from Jaipur, the achievement was also due to their horses.

"A big shout out to our horses also. We are nothing without them," she said. "It has been a long journey and not an easy one. None of us thought it (to win gold) but we gave our hundred per cent and we did it," she added.

Sudipti currently trains at Pamfou in France. She began horse riding at the age of six as a hobby but later took it seriously as a sport on the insistence of her father. The name of her horse is Chinski.

Divyakriti took to horse riding when she was in the seventh grade at the famous Mayo College Girls School in Ajmer. She was the equestrian captain of her school. She did her graduation in Delhi's Jesus and Mary College.

In 2020, she moved to Europe for training as equestrian infrastructure is not the best in India. She was training at Hagen ATW in Germany before the Asian Games. She rides Adrenalin Firfod.

Anush, who hails from Kolkata, is currently based in Borchen in Germany. He developed his passion for horse riding after his parents took him to a club in Kolkata.

He soon began having horse riding lessons at the age of eight. After having difficulties in finding a coach, he left India in 2017 and moved to Germany. Anush became the first male dressage rider from India to compete at the world championships at the 2022 edition in Herning, Denmark. His horse's name is Etro.

Hailing from Mumbai, the 25-year-old Chheda, a business management degree holder from University of London, also began horse riding at a young age. Since 2013, he began training with top foreign players in Europe.

Interestingly, he build a top-class riding facility and first breeding programme for dressage horses in the country. He rides Chemxpro Emerald

With inputs from PTI