Equestrian Fouaad Mirza created history when he topped his South East Asia and Oceanic group in the individual event category to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2019. Not only was it a special moment for Fouaad Mirza, but also for India as he became the first Indian in 20 years to do so.
Bengaluru native Fouaad Mirza scored 64 points from six qualifying events to become India’s third equestrian at the Olympics behind Indrajit Lamba (1996 Atlanta Olympics) and Imtiaz Anees (2000 Sydney Olympics).
Although Fouaad Mirza has booked his place for the Tokyo Olympics, he needs to meet the Minimum Eligibility Criteria to get an official stamp on his ticket to Tokyo.
The 29-year-old Fouaad Mirza also broke India’s equestrian medal drought at the 2018 Asian Games, winning an individual and team silver – the first in 36 years. The Government of India also conferred Fouaad Mirza with the Arjuna Award in 2019.
However, Fouaad Mirza, currently in Germany, is waiting for his mare Dajara 4 to complete her quarantine this weekend so the duo can start training again in preparation for their next competition.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, Fouaad Mirza opened up about Dajara 4, his chances at the Tokyo Olympics and much more
SK: How is Dajara 4 doing? What are the steps you are taking to keep her mentally and physically fit?
Fouaad Mirza: Dajara 4 is keeping well. She is doing really well at the moment. I feel happy how she looks and feels. I think mentally she is in a very good space as well. There are a lot of things that go into keeping horses –good frame of mind, feeling well and willing to give their best for you at the competitions.
Horses like to have routine in their daily life and work. You also have to keep changing things up so that they don’t feel bored. There are many things that we play around with, going out in the forest for a trail ride or just having an off day in the field.
SK: What sort of advice are you getting from your father who also happens to be an equine specialist?
Fouaad Mirza: I am very, very lucky to have a father who has been supportive towards my sport since the first day. The knowledge he passed onto me and is still passing has stood me in good stead in Germany.
He has taught me a lot about management, keeping horses healthy and fit. I have learnt so much from my dad, especially at this time when we have a serious virus outbreak.
SK: How has keeping Touching Wood along with Dajara 4 helped?
Fouaad Mirza: The reason why we decided to keep Touching Wood with Dajara is because she has to quarantine after coming back from Italy. Horses are social animals like people and they like to be amongst other horses.
Hence, I thought it would be a very good idea if I took a familiar face in Touchingwood to the stable where Dajara is serving her quarantine. Dajara will complete her quarantine this Saturday and after that she will be brought back to her home stable.
SK: How has the new virus outbreak affected your preparation for the Tokyo Olympics?
Fouaad Mirza: As far as the preparations are concerned, it’s probably not hindered me in a significant way at all. Ofcourse it’s not ideal and I missed out on a couple of shows here and there but looking at the bigger picture, I am still on track. I am training hard to get the job done.
SK: How do you look at your chances for the Tokyo Olympics?
Fouaad Mirza: Truly, I still need to meet some of the Minimum Eligibility Criteria. I have to meet that with two horses – Dajara and Seigneur Medicott – which I will potentially try and qualify for Tokyo this year. It's hard work but definitely doable and I am sure I will get the job done.
With regards to my chances, I am not somebody who is just going to go there to say 'I went to the Olympics'.
My horse and myself, if we give it our very best, it could be something very special. I am training hard for that, want to go all in and give it my best to wherever they may end up. I am not worried about the outcome but at this stage I am worried about the work I put in, and the frame of mind the horses and I are in.
SK: What events are you looking at to make yourself ready for Tokyo?
Fouaad Mirza: I have a few events lined up – two in April in Poland and then one at the end of May in Germany. They come thick and fast now. I am sure that by then everything should be settled but of course the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) will decide on April 11 or 12 about how to move forward.
SK: Does, being the first from India in the last 20 years to qualify for the event at the Olympics, put you under pressure?
Fouaad Mirza: Not at all! I think we are a talented nation when it comes to this sport. Hopefully, this paves the way for many other equestrians to follow behind me.
One day I would love to stand together with them on the podium. This is something that I have wanted to do since day one. I love to compete, I love animals, and I love being around them.
I would enjoy it more rather than feel the pressure. Obviously there is a lot of hope from me. I am sure I will enjoy myself and really do what I love to do and the way I do it. The rest will be history.
SK: What are your thoughts on Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju’s idea of sending the Indian contingent beforehand to acclimatize with the conditions?
Fouaad Mirza: I think that’s a very interesting idea. I am sure that would work for the athletes. In many ways it could work for the horses as well.
When horses travel long distances and there is a drastic climate change, they have a two week buffer period. Because of their fitness, training and the conditioning that they have, two weeks in an extreme climate change area is what they can withstand.
But anything longer than two weeks, their health, strength and performance graph starts to deteriorate. So like any athlete, the horses are also fine-tuned to give their best on a particular day. Generally, the horses are scheduled to fly out like 10 days before the competition.