Jacqueline Lai inspires new showjumping event as organisers look to boost sport’s popularity in Hong Kong

Next year’s Longines Masters of Hong Kong has an event solely for local riders as awareness grows in the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 10:16pm

Jacqueline Lai Jing-man raised the roof when she rode a perfect round at the Hong Kong leg of the Longines Masters Series back in February.

It was a first for a Hong Kong show jumper across four editions of the event and, as it turns out, it wasn’t only the locals who left AsiaWorld-Expo impressed.

Encouraged by Lai’s effort – and by the reaction to it – organisers of next year’s February 10-12 staging of the series are now planning an event exclusively for Hong Kong riders as they look to further connect with the fans here, and as the sport continues to establish itself in the SAR.

“Jacqueline was absolutely fantastic this year and definitely played a large part in bringing local awareness to the Longines Masters of Hong Kong. It was the first time that Jacqueline competed in CSI5* [event] along with the world’s best riders and she did amazingly well, transported by her home crowd,” said Christophe Ameeuw , founder and CEO of Belgium-based series organisers EEM.

Watch: The Longines Masters of Hong Kong in February

“Our aim is to continue to build the buzz around the event each year. In that spirit, we’re also thrilled to be welcoming back the Hong Kong Jockey Club Junior Equestrian Training Squad [JETS].

“We hope their involvement will generate more local interest and ensure that interest in equestrian sport, particularly show jumping, continues to flourish in the city.”

This year the JETS team, aged between 14 and 21, were involved in a series of master classes across the weekend.

But next year they’ll have their own event to compete in, ensuring there will be a first Hong Kong winner for the crowd to cheer across the weekend.

One of the city’s more seasoned riders will again be invited to compete in the main programme.

In February that honour went to Lai and it was the 25-year-old’s first experience of CSI5* – the highest level of jumping there is.

“It was an exciting journey for me,” said Lai after her ride. ““To have the crowd behind me was very special. I’ve learned a lot from the weekend and it’s just been a great experience for me and for the sport in Hong Kong.”

The current Longines Masters Series kicked off in Los Angeles in early October, with German Olympian Daniel Deusser and his horse Equita van’t Zorgvliet taking the honours.

It next moves to Paris from December 1-4, before Hong Kong once again brings the competition to a close.

Slice of history for quick-fire Marco Kutscher at Longines Masters in Hong Kong

Win again in Paris and Deusser will come to Hong Kong with a chance to win the new super grand slam bonus of 2.25 million (HK$19.2 million) being offered for a clean sweep of the series.

This year’s Hong Kong event was last month handed a gold award for “Best Live Experience at a Professional Sporting Event” at the Sports Industry Awards Asia in Bangkok, beating off the likes of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore and the HSBC World Golf Championship Shanghai.