Chinese event rider Alex Hua Tian describes his Olympic memories as “totally surreal” when he looks back and that’s hardly surprising when you consider he became the youngest eventing competitor to ride at the Olympics when he competed at the 2008 Beijing Games, aged 18.
“It’s a bit crazy looking back at it all,” says Alex, while being interviewed by H&H’s eventing editor Pippa Roome for episode 19 of the Horse & Hound podcast. “I think it was a combination of a few factors, such as being half Chinese certainly gave me the opportunity to compete for China in my home Olympic Games. But at the same time, being also half British gave me the opportunity to assimilate into the eventing world comfortably and take on the whole lifestyle and so on.
“But also, I had incredibly supportive parents, who not only gave me all the opportunities to do what I wanted to do, but also allowed me to make the decision to do it, because for the Beijing Olympics I ultimately took a year out of school the year before my A-levels — I owned that decision as they never pushed me to do it, and I think that was a very important part of my life.
“Then there’s also the crazy amount of money generously given to that project by Mr Jiang, who funded my Beijing Olympic campaign. I think the combination of all those things and the timing, all brought it about.”
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Unfortunately Alex’s Olympic debut didn’t go according to plan when he parted company with FBW Chico at fence eight on the cross-country – “It was such a heartbreaking moment for me personally and really burst the fairytale bubble I was living in at the time.” But while he admits it took a while to get over the disappointment, with hindsight he thinks it helped to set him on his way to making eventing his career.
“Looking back on it now I think I’ve got more out of falling off at the Olympics than I would have done if I’d finished 50th or whatever. I very much felt after that I still had something to prove, which is why I’m still here.”
After narrowly missing out on qualifying for London 2012 – “by 1.6 penalties” he recalls ruefully – Alex headed to his second Games at the Rio in 2016, where he rode Don Geniro to eighth place (pictured).
“Again, it’s surreal to look back now at those Olympics as Don was a young horse at nine years old, and was admittedly not the horse I was planning to take originally, which was Harbour Pilot C,” explains Alex. “We didn’t know if he was old enough and experienced enough to handle it all, but he seems to be a horse that loves the southern hemisphere!”
To hear more of Alex’s exclusive interview, listen to episode 19 of The Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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