Thunder of hooves in Chengdu

Updated: 2011-09-16 07:50

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

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CHENGDU - Horses are coming to town. Lots and lots of horses.

The four-day 2011 China Equestrian Festival begins in the capital of Sichuan province on Friday.

Sponsored by the State General Adminstration of Sports, the China Equestrian Federation (CEF) and the Sichuan Provincial Sports Bureau, it will be the first national equestrian event held in a city in the central or western part of China, said Wang Xuanqing, vice-chairman of the CEF.

It will also be the highest-ranking and largest equestrian event in China, he says.

About 100 riders and their horses will take part in the five professional competitions, ranging from Western events such as barrel racing and a jumping challenge to Chinese-style speed horse riding and a horse basketball competition at the Jinma Racecourse in the Wenjiang district of Chengdu.

Ho Nai Yue, president of the Asian Equestrian Federation, will be the head judge of the jumping challenge.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Chinese equestrian team competed in the Games for the first time.

Despite a late start, China's equestrian team has developed rapidly, Ho says.

At the Asian Games last year, Chinese athletes won two bronze medals. It was a breakthrough, says the president, adding riders from China, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are almost at the same level.

The Asian-Pacific region will compete fiercely to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in fields such as dressage, eventing and jumping challenge. The 2011 China Equestrian Festival will provide an opportunity for players to gain confidence and strength, the president said.

An important part of the festival will be the election of new CEF leaders.

The day after the festival opens, the Wenjiang leg of the 2011 China Cycling Race will be held in the Wenjiang district, where 18 foreign professional teams from the United States, France and Britain and four teams from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei will compete on a 90km circuit.

Wenjiang was picked to host the event on the strength of its success with the 2010 Jinma Equestrian Sports and Culture Festival, according to Xie Chao, chief of the Wenjiang district government of Chengdu.

His district has renovated six old stables and finished construction of two new ones in line with the standards of the CEF. The eight stables can hold 130 horses.

The district has also finished construction of a new lighted training ground so that athletes can practise in the evening when it is not scorching hot, Xie said.

China Daily