August 12, 2008 / 9:58 AM / 10 years ago

Olympics-Equestrian-Hopes dashed, Hua Tian plots for London

HONG KONG, Aug 12 (Reuters) - With his good looks and multi-million dollar sponsorship, Alex Hua Tian had the world at his feet until he crashed to the turf.

Now, after making history as China’s first three-day eventer, with a Chinese father and an English mother, is already plotting his challenge for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Hua Tian crashed out of the competition in the cross-country phase on Monday when his horse Chico clipped a fence and he was catapulted out of the saddle.

Enraged, the 18-year-old, a pupil at the independent school Eton, near London, punched the turf in frustration, blaming himself for the fall which led to his elimination.

Given a day to digest the bitter blow to his chances, Hua Tian was starting to think positively again.

“I just can’t wait for London. I just wish it wasn’t four years away,” he told Reuters on Tuesday.

Already he was talking excitedly about plans to try to get to the World Championships in Kentucky in two years’ time as a stepping stone to the 2012 Games.

Having made history for China, he said “I am very proud even to have got here. Everyone said I beat the odds.”

“I am really hungry for it now. I want to prove that China can do it and not just in the sports that it is traditionally good at,” he said. “Everyone in the eventing community has been so supportive. They are all telling me to keep my head up.”

His e-mail box was stuffed with messages of support the day after his tumble. The Chinese crowds even cheered him when was walking back utterly dejected afterwards.

Eton, one of Britain’s most exclusive schools, gave Hua Tian a month off to compete. But he will have to be back at his desk next month to complete his exams.

Hua Tian, who left Hong Kong aged 10, certainly picked the right equine tutors. He began training with Australia’s expert husband and wife team Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks.

China has a rich history of riding, particularly in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet but until recently horsemanship was more important as a farming skill.

Cheng Qing, secretary-general of the Chinese Equestrian Association, considers it a miracle that China is represented at all in equestrianism at their own Games.

So there was much resting on the shoulders of Hua Tian, who was backed by Guanghzou property tycoon Jiang Fengcan who invested 30 million yuan ($4.39 million) in the teenage prodigy.

“He’s handsome and has a lot of women fans so a lot of sponsors are attracted to him,” Cheng told Reuters.” (Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney)

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