NANJING: Qatari rider Hamad Al Qadi controlled both his horse and his nerves to come up with a spirit-lifting performance in the first round of the equestrian individual event of the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing yesterday.
Qadi was close to getting a faultless round at the Xinzhuang Centre arena but clipped the top of the railing at the ninth hurdle and ended in a five-rider tie with four penalty points. In all, 29 riders from all parts of the world competed in the round.
The competition for the individual medals looks to be quite stiff and it can be gauged from the fact that as many as nine riders had a clear round today. In between the top riders and the group of Qadi, there is only rider — Italian Matias Alvaro — who had only one point as the time penalty.
With riders showing better understanding and coordination with borrowed horses, as many as nine riders are locked on the top with zero penalty points. They are China’s Li Yaofeng, Ireland’s Machael Duffy, New Zeland’s Emily Fraser, Hong Kong’s Lennard Chiang, Dominican Republic’s Maria Gabriela Brugal, El Salvador’s Sabrina Rivera Meza, Argentina’s Martina Campi, Australia’s Jake Hunter and Egypt’s Mohamed Hatab who all pulled off clear rounds.
With Qadi, four other riders are tied in the third spot as far as points are concerned. They are Senegalese Maeva Boyer, Paraguayan Valeria Maria Jimenez Caballero, Iranian Saeed Kalantari and Englishman Jake Saywell.
There is such a narrow gap between the top 15 riders that the second round today is expected to be quite a thrilling.
Qadi was overall delighted with his round, though he was under intense pressure after his team had a dreadful finish. With a smile, he said: “Overall I’m happy with my round. I had just one mistake which cost me four penalty points. The new layout was used and I was doing very well till the error on the ninth station.
“The way the competition is shaping up, it’s going to be a close finish. I am not much away from the top group. I have a big chance of moving up the order on Sunday. I will focus on a clear round tomorrow and hope that other riders make mistakes.
“It was the first day of the individual round. I was under pressure after the team event. But after the round, I’m relieved. I must improve tomorrow and let us see what happens,” he said.
Qadi also commented about his horse Fernando. “All the horses are getting better as the riders are able to spend more time with them. My horse is a normal horse. Some horses are strong but some are not at the same level. I still insist the gap between me and others at the top is not much and anything is possible in the second round.”
His coach Ian Kerr was also pleased with Qadi’s run. “Technically, this has been the best round for him so far. We had very good preparations at cracking the ring. Hamad was very focused. He did exactly what he had to do,” Kerr said.
“There were a couple of very difficult turns — after the second, he had to turn back for the third and after the sixth obstacle, he had to do the same. But he did everything correctly. Unfortunately, he had four jump penalty points at the ninth when he hit the top of the railing on number nine.
“But overall, he rode superb. He needs a bit of luck tomorrow. This show jumping is like that. Things change very quickly. We’ll aim for a clear round tomorrow and we’re not far away,” added the Irish coach.
Three riders were stopped from competing after their horses showed reluctance and they were all eliminated.