Olympic qualification for Tokyo Olympic was very much the focus of a few riders at Wallaby Hill International in NSW, Australia this weekend where the CCI4*-L class provided an opportunity for riders still looking to qualify for Tokyo to gain an MER (Minimum Eligibility Requirements) qualifying result.

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Some of the riders in the CCI4*-L have already represented their country at an Olympic 2020 Games, with Australia’s Shane Rose winning and Amanda Ross in fourth place while New Zealand’s Clarke Johnstone finished second on Balmoral Sensation. But it was a horse and rider from a different FEI Olympic Group that we have been keeping a key eye on in the lead up to this event.

Pakistan’s Usman Khan has been based in Australia for 15 years and during this period his aim has been to qualify in Eventing for an Olympic 2020 Games. For many years we have seen him at events large and small around Australia and particularly in Victoria, where he is based

Lee Ibrahim (Pakistan Eventing stable manager/groom) at the 2018 Melbourne International 3 Day Event with Al-Buraq CCI2*. Lee, an Australian national, wore Pakistan’s traditional women’s dress Shalwar Kameez to present Al-Buraq when Usman had been excused from attending the first horse inspection due to his work commitments.

 Usman had hoped to qualify with his grey mare Al Buraq but, horses being horses, things went awry early in 2019 and Usman had to find another horse and start again. The 12-year-old bay gelding Azad Kashmir (originally named Here to Stay) was previously competed by Belinda Isbister in Western Australia but Usman bought him in early 2019, took over the ride and had his first start in competition at Camper down in April where they finished sixth in the CCI2*-S on their dressage score.

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Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well at the Melbourne International 3 Day Event in June where Usman fell on cross country, prompting him to think about the time he needed to get to know his new horse and, at that point, Usman decided to quit his job as an IT Consultant to the Government and focus on his goal of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

 “You can’t (easily) compete against these guys,” says Usman “But you can do one thing. You can quit your professional job for the time being to try and focus on things that matter the most for at least the next 6 – 12 months”

Usman didn’t have a groom with him at Goulburn but fellow competitor Jane Robinson jumped in to lend a hand during the event. Usman says that Australians have been instrumental in helping him achieve his goals.

 We caught up with Usman again in October at the Lynton Horse Trials in Goulburn where the organizing committee had generously agreed to run a CCI3*-L specifically for Usman and Azad Kashmir so that they could try and achieve an MER at this level, enabling them to compete at Wallaby Hill CCI4*-L, where a successful completion in December could provide Usman and Azad Kashmir with the vital MER for Olympic qualification.

We talked to Usman after his cross country run at Goulburn and filmed this interview, but he asked if we could wait to show it until after Wallaby Hill …’inshallah’.

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We were delighted to hear that Usman and Azad Kashmir completed the CCI4*-L at Wallaby Hill last weekend; they started with a good dressage score of 35.10, added just 2.8-time penalties on Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross country course to be in ninth place and, although they picked up 16 jumping penalties on the last day to drop to 13th, this was good enough to earn their MER and achieve Tokyo 2020 qualification – a huge achievement for Usman and Pakistan.

“It would be very chastening for us, as a nation, as a country, to compete at the Olympic 2020 Games,” says Usman, who is now one very big step closer.

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