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Hong Kong Olympian Thomas Heffernan Ho aboard Zibor, with whom he competed at the Asian Games. Photo: HKEF

Tokyo Olympics: Thomas Heffernan Ho set to make eventing history for Hong Kong after sealing place in Games

  • The 32-year-old’s performances over the past few years, including earning Hong Kong a qualifying spot in the Olympics, made him the clear choice for Tokyo
  • Ho will partner veteran horse Tayberry at the eventing competition, where he will come up against friend and China rider Alex Hua Tian

Thomas Heffernan Ho could finally breathe a sigh of relief on Friday after he was confirmed as the first equestrian rider to represent Hong Kong in eventing at the Olympic Games.

The 32-year-old was selected by the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation for the Tokyo Olympics after his performances in 2020 earned Hong Kong their first-ever eventing qualification spot in the Games. He and his veteran horse Tayberry will be competing at the Sea Forest Cross-Country Course and Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Japan from July 30 to August 2.

“It has been a long journey,” Ho, who is currently in the UK, told the Post. “Never give up on your dreams, even when times get difficult and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. Be passionate about everything you do in life. There were times with the Covid-19 pandemic you weren’t sure if you had any competitions and there was a lot of uncertainty so it’s great that it is all confirmed and we can prepare for the Olympics.”

Ho and Tayberry were forced to qualify twice for the Olympics after the 2020 Tokyo Games were initially delayed from last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thomas Heffernan Ho with Tayberry, who will be his partner in the Tokyo Olympics eventing competition. Photo: HKEF

Their 12th place at the Sopot CC14*-S show in Poland in September ensured a place for Hong Kong in the Tokyo eventing competition. Although he potentially faced competition from other Hong Kong riders for the Olympics spot, the HKEF went with Ho because of his overall performances during the past few years.

“Thomas is the only eventing rider in Hong Kong achieving the qualifying results for the Olympics eventing individual competition, and he certainly demonstrated his ability to represent Hong Kong for this event,” the HKEF said in a statement.

Fleur Schrader will compete for Hong Kong in the Paralympic Games equestrian competition. Photo: HKEF

“With his impressive achievements and being the only eventing rider in Hong Kong qualifying at Olympic level, Thomas was selected to be the Hong Kong representative and will be competing with his horse Tayberry.”

Ho will be up against his friend and China’s pioneering equestrian rider Alex Hua Tian, who is also competing in the eventing competition, having finished a creditable eighth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Hong Kong will also be seeing their first-ever para dressage team at the Paralympic Games. Based on the top six international results obtained before January 31, 2020, Hong Kong riders Timothy Tsang Tin-chi and Natasha Tse Pui-ting were ranked among the top three on the FEI Paralympic Individual Asia Region Ranking List and attained the maximum of two slots available.

Timothy Tsang was among the top three para equestrian riders in the Asian rankings. Photo: HKEF

Fleur Schrader, who received a Bipartite Commission Invitation with outstanding results, will be joining Timothy and Natasha in Tokyo. “With Hong Kong obtaining three individual slots and all athletes fulfilling the required criteria to form a team, it is exciting to see the first para dressage team to the Paralympics, marking a milestone for equestrian sport in Hong Kong,” the HKEF said.

“The HKEF would like to congratulate all riders for their achievements and we invite all to wish them the best of luck in Tokyo this summer.

“We are pleased to have our first-ever eventing representative as well as the first para equestrian team to the Olympics and Paralympics. This is indeed a landmark moment for the sport in Hong Kong.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ho to saddle up as City’s first eventing rider