Raising the hopes of 1.3 billion souls for the first ever medal in an equestrian event for India in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is the lone participant Fouaad Mirza. Yet, the demeanour and confidence of this handsome 29-year-old, does not betray any tension or unease.
After two decades, Mirza is the first Indian equestrian to qualify for the Olympics in two decades, and he is all set to create history for this nation by bagging a coveted medal, preferably gold. Many may think it is day dreaming but Mirza’s feat in 2018 Asian Games, where he bagged two silver medals, was also nothing less than a miracle.
Currently, Mirza is training round-the-clock for his tryst with destiny in Tokyo. Now in Germany for his practise and preparation, majority of his waking hours are devoted to horse and horse riding. He is either riding the equine or feeding them, or just taking care of them, to make his bond stronger.
The ease with which he handles and rides the animals is a telltale sign of his background and upbringing. The Bengaluru home of Mirza, a farm boasts of many horses, stables for them, medals, trophies and images – all narrating the tale of this champion on the horseback!
His family’s connection with horse riding goes back to eight generations.
Mirza’s father, Dr. Hasneyn Mirza, told News18 in an article: “My great great grandfather, he came from Iran in 1824. He settled in India. He brought Arab horses with him. My grandfather was a trainer, my father was in the 61st cavalry at the President’s Bodyguard. He commanded the President’s Bodyguard. He played polo for India and it just carried on.”
The equestrian veterinarian with his own clinic at the farm, Dr. Mirza also loves riding and is a polo player. So deep is love for horses in the younger generation that a one room in the farm is dedicated to pictures and medals of his two sons. Aly Askar and Fouaad Mirza.
The father denies that he ever influenced his sons to get on the horses. He disclosed to News18: “I never sort of pushed either of them into it. For a long time both the boys were comfortable around horses. They didn’t ride for a long time. It was when they were five when they started riding. We never went on holidays. Because they were always practising or were in events. Riding was their holiday.”
Dr. Mirza finds Fouaad’s commitment and focus really praiseworthy. Sharing his observations for the article for News18, he said: “He is a completely committed, completely focused young man. He has only one thing in mind that is to excel. He looks at things quite differently. He looks at an event as one where he wins or learns from. Not one he loses. He always learns something whether he wins, loses or draws. The horses, their shoeing, their feeding, everything adds to the big picture.”
Fouaad Mirza receiving the Arjuana Award 2019 from President Ram Nath Govind
Citing an instance, Dr. Mirza recalled an incident about Fouaad. “He was in a UK university one time and was going to come just in time for junior nationals. This was about ten years ago. I got a list from him by email. It was the most exhaustive list one could get. It had everything from what tack has to be there for his horse to what kit should be kept ready for him to take with him. He came straight for the event, won the gold medal without having ridden.”
Mirza had his share of accidents while riding. He has a distinct cut mark under his right eye which he received fall off a horse when he was six.
Recalling that incident, his mother, Indira Basappa said: “He didn’t cry. He was so brave. At the age of six months, he was sitting on a horse very comfortable, not frightened at all. Then he wouldn’t let go of the horse. He’s been on the horse ever since then.”
India has never won a medal in equestrian in the Olympics. While Mirza offers hope for the country, his father is proud. “It’s a huge thing for any father to have a son represent India in the Olympics. It is the biggest stage. It is great that he can ride for the country.”