Emir's Sword meet gets 5* status, international riders.
Equestrian is getting bigger and better every year in Qatar, and this year's HH The Emir's Sword International Show Jumping is not only going to be an exceptional one but also highly competitive.
It is the first time that the three-day event, which will be held at the Al Rayyan Main Arena from February 25-27, will have international participants and ranking points will be awarded to individual riders.
"It will be an exceptional one," Qatar Equestrian Federation (QEF) president Hamad bin Abdulrahman al-Attiyah told Gulf Times yesterday.
Qatar's equestrian team, comprising Sheikh Ali bin Khalid al-Thani, Ali al-Rumaihi, Khalid al-Emadi and Bassem Hassan Mohamed, is among the first to qualify for Rio 2016. Qatar won gold in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon but it was during the Furusiyya 2015 Series in Abu Dhabi where the team secured their well-deserved qualifying spot for Rio -- the first time Qatar qualified for the Olympic equestrian competition.
With the team and the sport in the spotlight, the QR 2.5 million event will be a CSI5* global event for the first time.
"We are very close to Olympics and our Rio-bound team will compete against world's best riders taking part in the prestigious event, which will be held over three days for the first time," al-Attiyah said. "Our team is very much geared up for the Rio Games. It's still five months away, but we are taking it as if it's only two months away."
The Qatar riders have a very busy schedule for the next couple of weeks.
"Our riders are taking part in Nations Cup in Al Ain this weekend and then they will be here for Emir's Sword, CHI Al Shaqab and Doha Tour in March before going to Europe where they will take part in a horse show in Paris. They will then begin a very competitive European tour. So they are on the right track as far as preparations are concerned," he said.
Apart from these four Qatar riders, the hosts will have a strong presence in the championship with over 60 riders likely to take part.
The points awarded to individual riders could potentially earn them a ticket for this year's Games in August.
"For the first time, the event is an international five star affair with ranking points at stake. Out of nine classes, seven are ranking points' classes and the Sword event is in the Category A so it has big ranking points at stake for those riders who are still hoping for Rio qualification."
He said the change in status of the championship will help the riders to get more mileage and will also boost the profile of the event.
World No 13 Brazilian-born Luciana Diniz of Portugal, who won Longines Global Champions Tour last November in Qatar will lead the star-studded line up. Morocco rider Abdelkebir Ouaddar, who is looking for his Olympic berth, is also taking part in the event.
Asian Games gold medal winner Qatar rider Ali al-Rumaihi, who is eyeing an Olympic medal, said: "When the Doha Tour ends, we will head directly to Europe. We will feature in the Longines Global Champions Tour. It is going to be a long and tough season. This (tour) will make us ready for the Olympics because we will be riding against the best ahead of the Olympic Games."
Al-Attiyah added: "We believe in winning. Our target is gold in Rio, but you never know its sport; anything can happen. We will be competing against world's best riders who have 20-30 years' experience behind them. Our riders are relatively young but we have confidence in our ability."
On how they take care of horses, al-Attiyah explained, "We have a good team and good system in place. Trainers and riders manage the horses according to their condition and utility. We make sure that the horses do not get exhausted and we are selective about the events we participate in."
The qualified Qatar team has no plan to take part in pre-games events in Rio. "We will go from Europe and as of now we don't have any pre-games events lined-up," he said.
Entry for fans and spectators to the HH The Emir's Sword International Show Jumping competition is free.
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