Fresh from his gold medal performance in the Team competition on 4 October, Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Alsharbatly and 12-year-old stallion, Skorphults Baloutendro, took gold at the final equestrian competition at the Hangzhou Asian Games, with UAE’s Omar Abdul Aziz Al Marzooqi and Dalida Van Zuuthoeve and Abdulla Al Marri and James V.D Oude Heihoef winning silver and bronze, respectively. Alsharbatly won the same title in 2014 (Incheon).
Zero penalties for eight combinations
The first round saw 39 horse and rider combinations tackle the 13 obstacle course, designed by Australia’s John Vallance, which was made up of 15 individual jumps, had a maximum time of 84 seconds, and a height of 150cm. Eight athletes moved through to round two with zero penalties from UAE, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, with Alsharbatly recording the fastest time at 77.95. In all, 25 pairs moved through to the second phase of the competition, with only two combinations per team allowed to compete in the final round. The 25 included 2018 (Jakarta-Palembang) gold medallist Kuwait’s Ali Al Khorafi who clocked up two time penalties in round one.
The second round tested the athletes with a 12 obstacle, 14 jump course and a time allowance of 80 seconds. The running order was reversed based on performance from the first round, which kept the audience on the edge of their seats as the favourites entered the ring last. Due to the top five riders producing faultless rounds at this stage, a jump-off was required to crown the winner.
Three finish with zero jump penalties
Alsharbatly, Al Marzooqi, and Al Marri were joined by Thailand’s Janakabhorn Karunayadhaj with Maxwin Kinmar Agalux and Syria’s Amre Hamcho with Vagabon Des Forets for the final tie breaker. Due to Alsharbatly posting the fastest time in round two, he was the last to go, and after completing the jump-off in 39.68 time with zero penalties claimed the gold medal ahead of Al Marzooqi and Al Marri, who recorded times of 42.31 and 42.45, respectively. Both Karunayadhaj and Hamcho picked up four faults each.
Second gold in Hangzhou
This is Alsharbatly’s second Individual gold at an Asian Games with him taking to the podium in 2014 (Incheon) too. Of course, Saudi Arabia is known for its incredible form jumping, with Ramzy Al Duhami winning Individual gold in 2010 (Guangzhou) and the Team winning in 2006 (Doha), 2010 (Guangzhou), 2018 (Jakarta-Palembang), and obviously Hangzhou, too. This is Alsharbatly’s sixth gold medal at the Asian Games, showing consistent top-level performance.
“I’m really happy and so proud. I was aiming for the gold for team and individual,” said Alsharbatly. “I promised the President of the Federation I would win it and I was 100% sure of performing well. I am very proud I achieved the gold again. It’s a gift to the King of Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince, my country, the President of the Federation, and my friend Tarek Taher, who is my partner on the horse as well. I’m really, really happy. I was sure of my horse and I was confident and motivated and I’m so proud to win the gold.
“All my teammates are champions; they’re all top riders and I’m proud of them all… we have the best team on the planet; the whole package is amazing.”
Sights set on Paris
Alsharbatly’s next goal is the World Cup Final in Saudi Arabia, and then the Olympics in Paris: “I am expecting gold. I got a bronze medal in London, silver in the World Championships in Kentucky, and will try my best to win the gold in Paris. I will do my best to do it.”
The end of an amazing Games
This concludes the final equestrian competition at the Hangzhou Asian Games, and what an event it’s been. Tonglu Equestrian Centre has won high praise from the athletes competing across all three disciplines, and the competition has been fierce and exciting for all spectators.
“The Chinese Federation is one of the best, organisation-wise,” said Alsharbatly. “The footing was amazing, the organisation was so good and professional, and I am so proud to have an Asian country who can organise such a nice event. It is the best by far.”
China and UAE lead the equestrian medal tally
The medal tally across the equestrian events puts China and UAE on three medals each, with Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Japan, and Saudi Arabia on two, and Malaysia and Qatar on one. Both China and Saudi Arabia share the same number of gold medals following China’s incredible performance in the Team and Individual Eventing, something echoed by Saudi Arabia in the Jumping competitions.
by Rhea Freeman