Meet Adhav Kandasamy, Coimbatore’s young National equestrian champion

Adhav Kandasamy

Adhav Kandasamy

Adhav did – more than his father or uncle had imagined. Nine years since he first sat on a horseback, he has close to 50 equestrian medals, including an individual gold and a team silver at the Junior National Equestrian Championship 2021 held in Mumbai.

Equestrian, especially in India, is considered an elite and obscure sport. Only three Indians – Indrajit Lamba (in 1996), Imitiaz Anees (2000), and Fouaad Mirza (2021) – have managed to make it to the Olympics so far. Fouaad’s participation at last year’s Tokyo Games and the two silver medals he won at the 2018 Asian Games brought some spotlight on this otherwise inconspicuous sport.

‘Naturally gifted’

Adhav cannot recall how he felt when he first sat on a horse. But fear was not among the emotions he felt. He was at ease, more or less.

Adhav’s coach, Saravanan K, reckons he is a natural. “What makes our sport unique is that it involves establishing a connection with an animal. And, Adhav quickly builds a rapport even with the most challenging of horses. This ability is important for equestrians,” he says.

Adhav has ridden over four horses. The current one, AK, is named after himself. “I did not know what to name him. So, I just used my own initials,” laughs the 12-year-old. “I bathe him. I groom him. He likes carrots a lot. So, I feed him that. I talk to him a lot. During competitions, I tell him things like ‘Idhu easy ah dhaan irukkum, bayappadadhe” (Don’t worry, this will be easy)... I don’t know if he understands everything I tell him.”

According to Saravanan, the communication is not just verbal. “Your posture is important. If it is not right, your hands might shake a lot and that can upset the horse. Adhav doesn’t have such problems.”

Adhav’s favourite category is show-jumping, wherein the horse and rider are required to jump, usually within a time limit, a series of obstacles. He won the Junior National gold for this event. “I tried dressage. But it’s too slow and boring for me.”

He is now targeting the 2026 Asian Games. “We have already started preparations for that,” says his coach, “You need to start very young in this sport and work really hard. Adhav travels 15 kilometres every day for his training at 5 am. It is not just about him. His success depends on his horse and the support he gets from his parents.”

Adhav’s mother, Subathra Sampath, albeit happy about her son’s success, is disappointed it does not bring him any benefits. “Despite his national-level achievements, he neither has a sponsor or even a scholarship. It is a very expensive sport. We have to spend out of our pocket for him and the horse. So, we need the support of his school or from the government.”

Adhav, meanwhile, is set on his next target – success at the Asian Games – and his ultimate dream: an Olympic gold medal.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 5:02:47 pm |