From fan to foe: Hong Kong equestrian starlet Clarissa Lyra completes journey from Longines Masters stands to stage
The 21-year-old National Games bronze medallist and her horse, Catokia 2, will rub shoulders with Olympic stars this weekend
Hong Kong equestrian rider Clarissa Lyra used to watch the Longines Masters of Hong Kong from the stands – now she finds herself preparing to share the course with the world’s elite this weekend.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to compete here,” said the 21-year-old, who will ride for Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“It’s been a goal of mine for several years so I’m very happy I have this chance, but riding at home is going to be different because I grew up here and know a lot of people.”
Lyra’s Masters debut will also be the first five-star show of her career. She will compete in a total of five top-level events at the Asia World Expo from February 9-11.
“It’s a beautiful show but also super competitive. The riders I’ll be competing with here are different to those I would compete against in regular European competitions,” said Lyra, who primarily trains out of Ludger Beerbaum Stables in Germany.
“It comes with a lot of responsibility and expectations because it’s in front of the home crowd. I’m just trying to stay calm and not stress out.”
The months in between Lyra’s bronze medal success at the National Games in Tianjin last August to this year’s Masters have seen a few hiccups to say the least.
Due to Chinese quarantine restrictions, Lyra and her horse, Catokia 2, were forced to fly to the United States for three months. In fact, this is only Lyra’s second official outing since the National Games.
“It was the only way the horses could get out,” she recalled. “I didn’t compete at all for the three months I was there – that was challenging.
“I arrived back at my home base [in Europe] about a month ago and have been training really hard. We did one competition in Holland, which went really well. It was a nice schooling session for the horse and I have a really good feeling.”
While Lyra may be breaking new ground in her own career, Catokia 2 has already experienced five-star shows withstablemate Philipp Weishaupt, who will also be competing in this year’s edition.
“I’ve been riding with Catokia for about one year now so I know her well,” said Lyra, who also clinched Hong Kong’s first ever World University Equestrian Championship bronze medal in 2016.
“I’m lucky to have an experienced horse and to have Philipp here because he can help and give me some advice. I really love my horse and I’m happy she can ride in front of everyone in Hong Kong.”
It is full steam ahead for the Hong Kong competitors as all horses flew in safe, healthy and happy.
“That’s the most important thing for us riders, we want the horses to be loose and ready to jump.”
Lyra normally jumps at a similar height to the obstacles this weekend but sees a challenge in the “technicality of the course”.
“My goal is to have a few nice runs, steady and good jumps. I’m not looking for a particular placing; I’m only 21 and this is my first time in a five star,” she said. “I just want everything to go smoothly.”
A fair outing here – along with the bronze medal already in the bag – will surely give Lyra enough to make this year’s Asian Games roster.
“It’s going to be really challenging because there are a lot of riders trying to qualify for the team,” she said. “I’m just trying to focus on this before we return to Germany with a plan for the best way for us to qualify.
“The bronze was definitely a big achievement in a competition that was much tougher than we expected. It’s a great confidence booster for me and my horse.”
The Longines Masters of Hong Kong runs from February 9-11, with the inaugural Asia Horse Week event and conference starting on February 8.
World-class riders includes world number four and 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Kevin Staut from France and reigning Hong Kong Masters winner Christian Ahlmann from Germany.