Alex Hua Tian’s blog: remembering my grandfather and off to Hartpury

  • This marks the end of a very emotional week. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away last week in China and so all plans were quickly dropped and my mother, brother and I swiftly flew to Guangzhou (Canton), where my grandparents have lived for the past 30 years.

    My grandfather, Hua Long Yi, was an incredible man. He ran away from home (and from an arranged marriage) at 13 to join former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Yan’an at the end of the Long March, where he eventually trained as one of the first Chinese fighter pilots.

    Flying a MiG 15 in the Korean War, he shot down four American Sabres in one week (at a time when 10 MiGs were shot down for every Sabre). He was eventually shot down after losing all four of his wingmen and parachuted to safety. He was shot in the elbow and was carried back to hospital where he met my grandmother, Zhao Ning, who was his attending doctor.

    He was awarded the first Medal of Honour, the equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and was made the first hero of the Chinese air force. On his only visit to England for my christening in 1989, he had a fascinating visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, where he inspected the Sabre up close for the first time and exchanged war stories with the director of the Museum who had been a pilot on the other side!

    My grandparents had five children, my father being in the middle and the only son, and so it was really nice to spend a bit of time with the family celebrating my grandfather’s life.

    Visiting the Asian Games site

    Coincidentally, Guangzhou is also the City that is hosting the all-important Asian Games next year. Just a couple of hours north of Hong Kong, and without the mild sea breeze, it is even more unbearably hot in summer. The venue for the equestrian section is a few hours further north of Guangzhou, in a holiday resort with a spectacular backdrop.

    It appears to have been cut out of a mountainside and once the work has finished (no one builds faster than the Chinese!) I’m sure it will look absolutely breathtaking.

    It is also quite exciting that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is very involved in the design of the venue. I’m certain that all the riders will agree that the facilities at the Beijing Olympics (in Hong Kong) were second to none and so I have every faith that the Asian Games will also be very impressive.

    Here’s a picture of my brother Jamie by the pool at what will be the riders’ hotel.

    Gatcombe and Hartpury

    After a 14-hour flight (through Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris), a two-hour drive and a rapid shower in the M4 services, I found myself at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe. I had planned to run Maggie and Chico in the World Cup qualifier class, but as I’d been away for a week they have now been re-routed to Hartpury this weekend.

    As was mentioned last week, I was on the Equine Products UK stand (main pic above) and I’d like to thank all of those who managed to find some time to come over and have a chat so I didn’t feel too lonely. I was chatting to Justin Ridley who runs Equine Producks UK, and it shocked me when he mentioned that he buys a 150 tons of garlic a year for his equine supplements. I find it impossible to fathom vast figures and quantities like that.

    Anyway, Justin gave me a box full of caps to hand out to anyone I knew and so surely enough, on bumping into the Gatcombe commentating crew of Mike Tucker and co. a simple mention of free caps was hastily snatched up. Mike Tucker, especially, appeared to have caught the afternoon sun! It would have made a great photo but unfortunately I didn’t have a camera handy.

    It is all guns blazing for Hartpury this weekend. Also work is continuing apace on my new website and some of the millions of photos we possess have finally been uploaded onto the server and so will hopefully be ready on the website for anyone who wishes to have a browse.

    Maggie, Chico and Jeans are all on top form and are really settling into their harder work routine and are beginning to feel and look fitter ready for a stiff autumn’s competing.


    Pictures from the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe

    Alex Hua Tian’s column archives

    Alex Hua Tian’s website

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