Asian Games 2018 medals the target for Hong Kong equestrian team after horse quarantine nightmare
Chef d’equipe Amanda Bond is confident of success in Jakarta thanks to an improved performance programme and smoother horse transport
Almost a year on from the two-month quarantine that derailed the Hong Kong equestrian team at the China National Games, team manager Amanda Bond confirmed her athletes will not have to go through the same ordeal for the Asian Games next month.
“This for us is the most important thing,” she said. “Going into the China Games last year, we had to do 30 days quarantine in Europe then 30 days when we arrived in China. During that time you can’t work the horses the way you would normally.
“You can imagine two months of not being able to train properly gave us a disadvantage. Luckily, there is no [long-term] quarantine this time – we can train the horses right up to getting on the plane,” added Bond, also the executive manager for equestrian affairs at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC).
All of Hong Kong’s Europe-based horses will be transported directly from Belgium to host city Jakarta via a “bubble”, or quarantine zone.
While horses – like riders – are susceptible to jet lag and temperature change, the “level playing field” boosts Hong Kong’s chances to improve upon their mediocre performance in Tianjin last year, which saw Jacqueline Siu Wing-ying and Clarrisa Lyra take home silver and bronze medals in dressage and showjumping, respectively.
Hong Kong has taken two bronze medals at Asian Games equestrian events – one in team eventing at the 2014 Incheon Games and one in team jumping in Guangzhou in 2010.
The HKJC continues to invest heavily in its athletes via the Hong Kong Equestrian Performance Programme, first introduced in the lead up to the China Games in 2016. Bond says the programme is working.
“The National Games was a learning curve and it was really good preparation for these championships,” said Bond. “If you look at performance programmes around the world, they often take many years until they reach the peak. I’m hopeful we’ll have some success.
“We have been training riders and purchasing horses – a number of [which] will be at the Games – and we have a professional support team.
“Excellent veterinarians, [physiotherapists] and performance managers will help us get into Jakarta in the best possible position that we can. We also work with a sports psychologist to make sure the athletes are mentally prepared for any challenges or nerves.”
High expenditure inevitably comes with high expectations.
“From the HKJC’s perspective, the most important thing is that we do a super-professional job and if the medals come along as a result, that’s a bonus,” said Bond.
Hong Kong’s best chance of silverware lies in Jacqueline Siu and horse Jockey Club Fuerst On Tour in the dressage. Siu came agonisingly close at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, finishing fourth.
“They are doing their final preparations and are looking good so far. We’re hopeful we’ll be at the top of the leader board,” said Bond.
“In eventing, our team of four has a new rider in Yu Xuan Su, who won a bronze at the Asian Eventing Championships last year. It’s quite competitive but again, we shouldn’t be too far from medals.
“In showjumping, we have Clarissa Lyra who is confident from her National Games bronze and we saw Jacqueline Lai riding at the Longines Masters.
“With regards to a medal, it’s a bit challenging because this is the most competitive of all the equestrian disciplines at the Asian Games.”
Ultimately the horses will decide what Hong Kong returns home with. Cue flashbacks to Hong Kong Olympian Patrick Lam, whose horse refused to jump at last year’s Games.
“The biggest challenge with any equestrian is always the horse, as you can see!” said Bond, who laughs at the comic timing of a horse failing to clear a barrier behind her.
“We’re dealing with two athletes, human and equine, and horses can always go wrong.”
Hong Kong team for the 2018 Asian Games
Dressage: Jacqueline Siu Wing-ying (Jockey Club Fuerst on Tour)
Show Jumping: Jacqueline Lai Jing-man (Basta), Patrick Lam Lap-shun (Quintino), Raena Leung Hou-ling (Folinde Van Het Slagershof), Clarissa Lyra (Catokia)
Eventing: Annie Ho Yuen-yan (Jockey Club Fleurelle), Patrick Lam (Jockey Club Amy Lee), Yu Xuan Su (Diva de Lux), Nicole Pearson (Vihara du Causse)