Asian Games: From air travel for horses to renting boats, Indian athletes eye glory in Hangzhou
Mumbai, Sep 23 (PTI) From transporting the horses by air to renting canoes and kayaks or even carrying them as luggage, Indian athletes for equestrian, canoe and kayaks disciplines have made their way to the Asian Games hoping to bring laurels to the country.
While Fouaad Mirza ended the country's draught of medals in equestrian in the last Asian Games in Indonesia by winning the silver in individual jumping, India is waiting for its next medal in canoeing and kayaking since the 1994 Hiroshima Games.
India has only one medal in canoeing from the pair of Siji Kumar Sadanandan and Johnny Rommel who won the bronze, six editions and 24 years ago in Japan.
The horses bound for Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, for equestrian have undergone one-week mandatory quarantine from September 12-19 in Aachen, Germany, from where they were taken to the venues.
"The transportation of the horses for any event is done by air, which also includes elaborate quarantine procedures that need to be followed," said Shyam Mehta, president of the Amateur Riders' Club in Mumbai, which has hosted several events organised by the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI).
"Keeping the horses fit and healthy is a huge task especially keeping in mind the quarantine guidelines and the travel time," Mehta said.
"The quarantine zones can sometimes be in another country, for example with the Asian Games which is in China, the quarantine centres are abroad — where you travel first, stay in quarantine and then travel to China," he said.
"These quarantine centres are equipped with riding areas and paddocks to keep the horses fit and healthy throughout their time there, post which, they travel to the event location and practice to get acclimated with the conditions there before performing," Mehta added.
On the query of the other equipment required by the riders during events, Mehta said, "The equipment required depends on the discipline, whether it is dressage, showjumping or eventing." "Each discipline requires different saddles, bridles and bits which are the main equipment. Furthermore, in dressage, they use accessories to dress up their horses and braid their hair. In the end it depends on the discipline when it comes to equipment," he added.
"For riders, the gear and equipment stays more or less the same. The only difference (here) being (that the) Eventers will wear body protectors in addition and Dressage riders will dress up to look good," Mehta explained.
Apurva Dabhade, Vikas Kumar and Ashish Limaye comprise the Indian equestrian team for eventing and Anush Agrawalla, Hriday Chheda, Divyakriti Singh and Sudipti Hajela are the members of the dressage team.
The individual jumping team includes Kirat Singh Nagra, Yash Nensee and Tejas Dhingra.
India has won a total of 12 medals — three gold, three silver and six bronze medals — in equestrian, which has been a part of the Asian Games calendar since 1982 Delhi Games.
Canoe was included in the Asian Games in 1990 and has been a part of the itinerary ever since.
In a canoe, the paddler uses a single-bladed paddle whereas a double-bladed paddle is used in a kayak.
At the Games, Sumant Shyam Kulshreshtha will be the team physiotherapist for canoeing and kayaking, while Kazakhstan's two-time Olympian Aleksandr Dyadchuk will be the Indian team coach.
In search of a medal to end the drought, the Indian athletes for slalom (canoe) are attending a high performance camp in Krakow, Poland currently.
"There are two separate boats used for canoes and kayaks. The boats will be made available to us at the venue for the Asian Games from a registered vendor — the players may not be taking these boats along with them," said Kulshreshtha.
"The athletes have their own individual paddles, which they carry along as their own baggage," he added.
While the athletes rent boats for 'flat water' events, they have to carry their own boats for 'wide water' events which are customised for them.
"There is a major division; one we call is a flat water event in which we have canoeing and kayaking. The boats are made available on rent. Usually these boats are manufactured in Europe and the manufacturing companies rent these boats at the competition venue," Kulshreshtha added.
"In wide-water format, known as canoe Slalom, the boats are comparatively smaller and athletes have to carry their boats.
"They (boats) are fit to their size; the athletes are well-adapted to their boats so they carry them as their sports gear or baggage. They are not as large as boats for canoeing and kayaks for flat water," he added.
At times, transporting the boats also becomes a challenge.
"Many airlines do not agree to take these boats and sometimes it becomes a challenge, but since this is all planned we make sure the boats are shipped along with the athletes," Kulshreshtha said.
"For sprint, the timeline is little less, the sprint team is reaching only three days in advance and they have to get acclimatised to the boats they will be provided, which vary in size that they have already told (about)," he added.
"For sprint, the boats are usually taken on rent because they are very large, long boats and cannot be taken as cargo until and unless there is no other option," he said.
"These boats for canoe and kayak come in containers from Europe; the vendor provides these to us because they are close to six metres or almost 15-20ft in length. They have been practising in standard Olympic equipment." In men's category, Sunil Singh Salam will compete in C1 1000m, Hitesh Kewat and Subham Kewat in slalom (kayak) and Vishal Kewat in slalom (canoe).
The C2 500m will have Ribason Singh Ningthoujam, Gyaneshwor Singh Philem and C2 1000m will have Arjun Singh and Niraj Verma representing the country.
Similarly, women's slalom (kayak) will have Shikha Chouhan, C2 200m Kaveri and Neha Devi Leichondam, C2 500m will have Shivani Verma and Megha Pradeep whereas K4 500m team from India will comprise Binita Chanu Oinam, Parvathy Geeta, Dimita Devi Toijam and Soniya Devi Phairem Bam. PTI DDV AH AH