In a moment that has left the nation swelling with pride and joy, India has achieved a historic feat at the Asian Games – a gold medal in dressage, a discipline that demands finesse, skill, and precision from both horse and rider.
Against all odds, a young and determined equestrian team comprising Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda, and Anush Agarwalla has etched their names in the annals of Indian sports history. Their victory is not only a testament to their unwavering dedication but also a reminder that dreams can be realized against the backdrop of skepticism and adversity.
India’s First Gold in Dressage
When the Indian dressage contingent arrived at the Asian Games, the dressage team was far from the frontrunners for a gold medal. In fact, many believed their presence was merely to fill the ranks.
Their journey to Hangzhou was filled with hurdles, including a dispute with the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) to secure their spot in the competition. However, this determined quartet of Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda, and Anush Agarwalla at Asian Games has now etched their names in Indian sports history by winning India’s first-ever gold in dressage and the first equestrian gold in 41 years.
The skepticism surrounding their preparations only makes this triumph even sweeter. With a combined score of 209.205, these young riders, the eldest of whom is just 25 years old, outperformed their rivals. China, the host nation, came second with 204.882 points, closely followed by the team from Hong Kong with 204.852 at the Asian Games 2023.
Did India Win A Gold In Dressage Ever?
To put this historic achievement into perspective, India had only won three previous gold medals in equestrian, all of which were secured in the 1982 Asiad in New Delhi. Furthermore, the solitary dressage medal, a bronze, was won by JS Ahluwalia at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games. This victory in Hangzhou is a significant leap forward, indicating that Indian equestrian sports are evolving and reaching new heights.
What is Dressage?
Dressage, often described as the graceful art of equestrian sports, is a highly technical discipline that demands an unparalleled level of coordination between the rider and the horse. While it may not appear as physically demanding as cross-country or show-jumping, it requires elegance and precision. In the team event, the rider must perform a series of prescribed movements, known as “tests,” in front of a panel of judges. The final score is determined by the performances of the best rider-horse pairs.
For the Indian riders, the weight of history held little significance as they embarked on their path to victory at the Asian Games 2023. Sudipti Hajela, riding her 16-year-old stallion Chinski, set the tone with a solid score of 66.706. Following her lead, Divyakriti Singh, riding Adrenalin Firfod, earned 68.176 points.
Hriday Chheda on Chemxpro Emerald scored 69.941, and Anush Agarwalla, riding Etro, achieved an impressive 71.088. In dressage, only the scores of the best rider-horse pairs count, highlighting the collective excellence of this team.
Anush Agarwalla, reflecting on the victory at the Asian Games 2023, expressed, “It’s a significant moment for us. We are extremely happy and proud. All our sacrifices have finally borne fruit.” Agarwalla’s journey from Kolkata to Borchen, Germany, where he has been based since 2017, is a testament to the dedication and passion of these athletes.
He has been coached by the legendary 2004 Athens Olympics gold medallist Hubertus Schmidt. Agarwalla’s equestrian journey began at the age of eight in Kolkata’s Tollygunge Club, and his unwavering commitment led him to travel to Delhi for training on weekends.
Divyakriti Singh echoed similar sentiments of sacrifice and determination. Based in Hagen, Germany, Singh found herself battling loneliness in a foreign land, but her commitment to representing her nation kept her going.
She recalled the challenges she faced during the strict lockdown in Europe in 2020, far from her family in India. Singh’s determination to overcome these hardships and continue training throughout the year reflects the indomitable spirit of these athletes.
Sudipti Hajela, at just 21 years old, spoke about the sacrifices she and her family made. Missing family celebrations and spending birthdays away from home were among the challenges she faced. Hajela shared, “None of us have experienced the life of a typical teenager.
Our school lives were far from normal. We couldn’t attend our parents’ birthdays, and I missed Diwali and Holi. We continued with our disciplined and focused lives. Moments like these make it all worthwhile.”
Their journey has been anything but ordinary. The trials and tribulations they’ve faced, including legal battles with the EFI, have only fueled their determination and motivation.
Anush Agarwalla summed up their extraordinary achievement aptly: “No one expected us to win gold, but we persevered through the tough times. Dealing with the EFI and the court was not easy, but it motivated us to excel.”
In a country where cricket often takes the limelight, this dressage victory deserves a special place in India’s sporting history. These young riders have defied the odds, overcome challenges, and exemplified the spirit of perseverance.
Their gold medal win in Hangzhou is not just their triumph but a moment of immense pride and joy for every Indian who watched their journey and celebrated their success. It reminds us that dreams can come true, even when the path seems daunting. Congratulations to the Indian dressage team for their historic achievement – you’ve made the nation proud.
Feature Image – Instagram
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