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Riding high: Alex Hua Tian hails Olympic success as a victory for equestrianism in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 5:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 9:36am

Hong Kong-raised Alex Hua Tian, China’s first – and only – equestrian Olympian, exceeded all his expectations in Rio and hailed his success as a victory for the sport in his home country.

The 26-year-old – who made history in Sha Tin as part of Beijing 2008 by taking part in a sport little known to many in China – finished in eighth place.

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"I can't believe it. The Don was very special this week,” he said of his horse, Don Geniro. “He is only nine years old and very inexperienced. This was a great week for me, for equestrian sport and for China."

Eton-educated Hua, who credits his love of horses to his childhood in Hong Kong running around the Beas River Country Club, could hardly believe his finish.

China’s first Olympic equestrian star Alex Hua Tian forever grateful to Hong Kong upbringing

"I came here and was hoping to be in the top 20. I never imagined this."

Hua did not compete in London 2012, but hopes to continue to represent China at Tokyo 2020.

"Absolutely. The hard work starts now with raising funds for the next four years.

"It does not stop. I will go home and have young horses to qualify for their [young horse eventing] world championships. Other riders will think about Badminton or Burghley but for me it will be Tokyo.”

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The competition was won by Michael Jung of Germany, who defended his London crown riding Sam FBW, a “substitute” horse after the one he had planned to bring to Brazil suffered an injury just weeks before the Games.

"To do this twice with the same horse is very special,” said Jung.

"It is unbelievable. An amazing feeling when you come in and your horse jumps so powerfully. In London it felt the same. Sam is just amazing. A brilliant horse."

France’s Astier Nicolas took silver and American Phillip Dutton won bronze.

Only two riders have won successive Olympic individual eventing titles before – Charles Pahud de Mortanges of the Netherlands in 1928-32 and Mark Todd in 1984-88.