New Delhi, Nov 22: Double Asian Games medallist equestrian Fouaad Mirza secured an Olympic quota after finishing as the top-ranked rider in his group in the qualifiers, ending a wait spanning nearly two decades. The 27-year-old was the highest-ranked rider in Group G for South East Asia, Oceania in the individual eventing category after the end of the Europe stage earlier this month.
However, the official confirmation will be announced by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) on February 20. Imtiaz Anees (2000 Sydney) and Late Wing Commander IJ Lamba (1996 Atlanta) are the only Indians to have represented the country at the Olympics.
Mirza, who was honoured with the Arjuna Award in August, finished with a total of 64 points from six qualifying events. He scored 34 points on his first horse Fernhill Facetime and 30 with his second horse Touchingwood.
"I had an idea that I was in the reckoning for the quota but had to wait for China and Thailand to qualify as teams. Both of them qualified last week in Italy. If these two countries had not qualified as teams they would have taken up the individual slots and I wouldn't have got the Olympic berth," Mirza told PTI from Germany.
The riders had to compete at 4-star level tournaments for Olympic qualifications. Based on an elaborate ranking system, a rider-horse duo collects points by taking part in tournaments throughout the year. To gain points the rider has to finish in the top 25 per cent of the number of competitors participating in the tournament. The higher the athlete is ranked in the competition the more points he gets.
"I am elated but there's still enough work to be done. It's one tick out of the many boxes. Now we have to prepare the best we can and enter the competition in top form," Mirza said.
Earlier this year, Mirza's top horse Seigneur Medicott had suffered an injury, denting the Asian Games silver medallists chances of qualification. But the horses have worked out well for Mirza.
"I miss my main horse, but the two new ones are doing well. They have worked out for me. They aren't as good as Medicott but I am pleased to see how the season has progressed with them. They have worked well to come this far and to reach this level," Mirza said.
Mirza shot to fame when he became the first Indian since 1982 to win an Asian Games individual medal in equestrian besides guiding the country to a second-place finish in the team competition in Jakarta last year.
"I am very grateful to the Embassy Group and Mr Jitu Virwani for giving me the opportunity to qualify for the Games. They have funded the entire project and Mr Virwani and the Embassy Group were behind the success at the Asian Games," he said.