Historic Gold for India at the 2023 Asian Games

Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:15
2023 Asian Games
The gold medal winning Indian team with Agarwalla, Hajela, Singh, and Chhedda at the 2023 Asian Games :: Photos © EI/Yong Teck Lim

Team India took a historic first team gold medal in dressage at the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou (CHN) held at at Tonglu Equestrian Centre on Tuesday 26 September 2023. India won with a combined score of 209.205 points, with China taking silver on 204.882, and Hong Kong just behind them on 204.852 to take bronze. 

Asian Games Format

At the horse inspection on Monday, three horses were held for re-inspection: Bonifaz Von Insel (Kim Chisu - KOR), Copain (Alsemaitt Maryam QAT), and Godiva Dii (Sharbatly Ahmed Adnan - KSA). The latter did not pass the re-inspection on Tuesday morning. 

Dressage at the Asian Games are held at small tour level. The team competition was held via the Prix St Georges. Teams of minimum three members and up to four could compete in the nations' competition with the three best results in the Prix St Georges counting for the team ranking.  The individual medal finals are the Intermediaire I freestyle. The top 15 ranked riders after two rounds (Prix St Georges + Inter I - scores combined) move on to the Intermediaire I Kur to Music.

Historic Gold for India 

The winning team - made up of Sudipti Hajela and Chinski (66.706), Divyakriti Singh and Adrenalin Firfod (68.176), Hriday Chheda and Emerald (69.941), and Anush Agarwalla and Etro (71.088) - clinched the first Asian Games gold medal in Equestrian sport for India since 1982.

The 21-year old Hajela and her  16-year old Dutch warmblood stallion Chinski (by Tuschinski x Jazz) improved their average PSG test score from a 64.4% to 66.7%, making this a really strong performance. Team mate Singh with 14-year old Danish warmblood gelding, Adrenalin Firford  (by Skovens Rafael x Zalmiak Firfod) also scored far above her average, improving it by almost 3%

Chheda and the 14-year old Dutch warmblood gelding Emerald (by Ampere x Jazz) landed third place in the Prix St Georges with the team's second best score (69.941%) while the German based professional rider Anush Agarwalla spearheaded India's campaign for gold aboard the 9-year old stallion, Etro (by Escolar x Lanciano), with a personal best score of 71.088% to place second. 

Hriday Chheda on Emerald
This is the first-ever gold medal India has earned in Dressage at the Asian Games. India’s previous best Team Dressage performance at the Asian Games was in 1986 in Seoul (KOR), where the team took bronze behind South Korea (gold) and Japan (silver). 

"This is such an incredible feeling, and our biggest dream come true," Singh commented. "So happy to be standing here, helping win the gold medal for India, alongside my incredible teammates Anush, Hriday and Sudipti." Team rider Anush Agarwalla also told Eurodressage, "this time we had a team of four young people who shared the same passion, same fire and same level of determination in themselves. We all had a very difficult road leading up to the games, lots of ups and downs, but we all shared the same goal and purpose. And on the final day all of us performed well and helped India get their first gold in dressage. I am very proud of our team’s performance."

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, took to Twitter and stated, "it is a matter of extreme pride that after several decades, our Equestrian Dressage Team has won Gold in Asian Games! Hriday Chheda, Anush Agarwalla, Sudipti Hajela and Divyakriit Singh have displayed unparalleled skill, teamwork and brought honour to our nation on the international stage. I extend my heartiest congratulations to the Team for this historic achievement."

Strong Performance for Team China

Sarah Rao on Geniaal
Team China claimed silver with their team consisting of Zhuoqin Huang (68.176), Jiayi "Sarah" Rao (69.265) and Chao Lan (67.441). Together the team scored 204.882.

This is Huang’s fifth appearance at an Asian Games with 2002 (Pusan), 2010 (Guangzhou), 2014 (Incheon) and 2018 (Jakarta- Palembang) listed as achievements. The silver medal won at Hangzhou isn’t Huang’s first as Team China claimed this at the 2010 Games too. Lan is also not new to the Asian Games, making his debut in 2014 in Incheon (KOR).

It was Rao’s first Asian Games appearance with stallion Geniaal (by Vivaldi x Biotop) who’s demonstrated consistent form at this level over the last year. The British based dressage rider was the team best scorer with  69.265% and a 6th place in the Prix St Georges.

Bronze for Hong Kong, but Siu’s one to watch

Bronze was awarded to Team Hong Kong who missed out on silver by a small margin.

China, India, Hong Kong on the team podium
The team was made up of Samantha Grace Chan (65.353), Yuen Yan Annie Ho (68.323) and Jacqueline Wing Ying Siu (71.176), with Siu scoring the highest across the competition. The British based dressage rider topped the board with 71.176% aboard the 11-year old Dutch warmblood Huittharien (by Bojengel x Goodtimes), owned by her sponsors, the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Whilst this was Chan’s first Asian Games, Ho and Siu have previous form with Ho competing in 2010 in Guangzhou (CHN), 2014 in Incheon KOR) and 2018  in Jakarta-Palembang (INA). Ho is also part of the Eventing team for Hong Kong while Siu claimed individual gold at the previous Asian Games.

Fully Changed Team Podium 

At the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, the team medals were completely different with Japan, South Korea and Thailand taking gold, silver and bronze.

This year, Japan took 4th on 202.324, Thailand took 5th on 194.118, with South Korea was eliminated as it only fielded three riders and team spearhead, the 2018 Asian Games silver medal winning Kim Hyeok on Degas K  (by De Niro x Walt Disney), was eliminated.

With no rest the action continues at the Asian Games as the Intermediaire I takes place on Wednesday 27 September and serves as second qualifier for the individual, Kur to Music, finals on 28 September. 

-- FEI press release, edited by Eurodressage

Related Links
Scores: 2023 Asian Games
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 Asian Games