Equestrian-Agarwalla, Vora delighted to add new chapter to Indian equestrianism

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FILE PHOTO: India’s Anush Agarwalla rides Sir Caramello Old during Blue Hors FEI Dressage World Championship in Herning, Denmark, August 2022. FEI/Leanjo de Koster/Handout via REUTERS

BENGALURU (Reuters) – When Anush Agarwalla relocated from India to Germany in 2017 to further his equestrian ambitions little did he expect to become the first male athlete in five years to represent the country at the world championships in dressage.

The 23-year-old, who hails from the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, realised his dream at Herning, Denmark this month, while guiding Oldenburg gelding Sir Caramello OLD to a respectable score of 66.832.

FILE PHOTO: India’s Shruti Vora enters the Stutteri Ask Arena with Denightron during Blue Hors FEI Dressage World Championship in Herning, Denmark, August 2022. FEI/Leanjo de Koster/Handout via ARCHIVES

He was joined in creating history by Shruti Vora, who became the first Indian woman to compete at the worlds in dressage, as the 51-year-old rode Danish Warmblood Denightron to a score of 64.534.

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“It was a great feeling. I used to watch people on YouTube and in live competition at the world championships, Asian Games and the Olympics,” Agarwalla, who started training in dressage five years ago, told Reuters.

“I used to say to myself, ‘One day I want to be there’. I used to think ‘Wow, this is what I want to do someday’ and then to really go there and be the first Indian and the youngest rider this year. It was huge.

“These are the moments you live for … moments when you know you have worked hard, been focused and determined. That’s what I really enjoy.”

BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE

Agarwalla was introduced to horse riding at the age of three and shifted base to New Delhi as a teenager but realised that he needed better facilities, events and trainers to raise his level in the sport.

After being rejected by several coaches, Agarwalla contacted Olympic champion Hubertus Schmidt who invited him to Germany for trials and took him on as a student despite his lack of experience.

“I withdrew from school and joined the National Institute of Open Schooling and studied online. I used to fly back home for examinations,” said Agarwalla, who is now studying at the University of Paderborn.

“It was a huge step… It’s not common. My parents were super supportive. For sure it takes a lot of courage on my part, but I feel it takes more courage on their part.”

Agarwalla hopes to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024 and emulate Fouaad Mirza, who became India’s first equestrian athlete at the Olympics in 20 years when he competed in Tokyo last year.

‘GREAT PRIDE’

Vora said she was delighted to make a mark for India, where equestrianism is still at a nascent stage, with the country’s major international achievements coming only at the Asian Games where they have won 12 medals.

“It’s a matter of pride that we can have representation from India in a technical event like dressage,” said Vora, who took a break of 14 years to raise her two children before returning to competition in 2010.

“Dressage is probably the most technical of events … so the fact that there were two people who qualified for the first time is great for the sport.

“It’s good for the younger generation of enthusiastic riders who can probably take from this.”

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