Good at horsing around

Good at horsing around

A teenager who has been riding since he was five will be competing for Hong Kong at the Youth Olympic Games in August

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Lennard Chiang and his Hong Kong horse, Namjong Smile.
Lennard Chiang and his Hong Kong horse, Namjong Smile.
Photo: Edward Wong

The sole Hong Kong representative in his event, equestrian athlete Lennard Chiang will celebrate his 17th birthday on August 14, two days before the Youth Olympic Games opens in Nanjing, Jiangsu .

Yet the story of how he earned the chance to go, and which horse he'll ride is an unusual one.

Lennard, a German-Chinese Junior Equestrian Training Squad member from Sai Kung, won the selection competition held by the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation in Singapore.

He and four other athletes from the squad - Michelle Li, Leung Oi-man, Clarissa Lyra and Patricia Chan - were asked to compete on five "ballot horses" in the individual jumping trials. That means horses they had never ridden or even met before. The winner would represent Hong Kong in Nanjing.

Lennard showed he was best at adapting to the horses in Singapore. It was a mock trial of the situation he will face again in August.

"At the two-day selection, we only had 20 minutes to ride and adapt to each horse. Time was limited, so I watched my teammates' performance to know more about the horses before my turn came," says Lennard.

He won, as it turned out, because of his attention to details.

"Among the five, there was one very careful horse who didn't like to touch the poles. I saw two riders before me have trouble with him. I also ran into some problems, but I tried to handle them and ended up eight penalties. But those were my only penalties, as I got all-clear with the other horses."

Lennard, who is in Year 11 at German Swiss International School, is quite experienced with horses - he first rode when he was five. The next year, he started training with Bernd Knorr, the former chief instructor of the Jockey Club's public riding schools, at the Tuen Mun Public Riding School.

In 2010, aged 12, he was recruited to the junior equestrian squad and started to compete for Hong Kong in overseas competition. He now trains regularly at the Beas River Equestrian Centre in Sheung Shui, under Joachim Heidenreich, the head trainer of the squad.

It's ironic to learn that, although Lennard has always loved animals, he was scared of horses at first.

"I didn't like horse riding. Horses looked so strong to me, and as a kid, I was worried that I might not be able to control them," he says. "But after riding for a year, I got used to it and started to have fun with them."

So much so that Lennard now trains with two horses. When he's in Hong Kong, his horse is Namjong Smile, a former race horse. In recent years, he's also been travelling to Ellwangen, Germany, during school holidays to train with Knorr. He has a jumping horse there named Little Luis, who was a gift from his dad for his 15th birthday.

"For the final preparation before heading to Nanjing, I will fly to Germany for seven weeks of training,' says Lennard. "I'll spend the first four in Ellwangen and compete in three competitions, and then join my squad teammates in Eschede in the remaining weeks for three more competitions."

Lennard first heard about the Youth Olympic Games in 2009, and the first edition was held in Singapore a year later. In those games, Jasmine Lai Zin-man, Hong Kong's only representative, won a silver medal in the team jumping event with the Australasian team.

Lennard never thought he'd get the chance to compete in the games, but he's fired up about it.

"To perform my best, I will have to train very hard in the coming months. I'll have to be fit enough to compete on the ballot horses, even in the very hot weather at the Games in Nanjing.

"Qualifying for the Youth Olympics motivates me," Lennard adds. "Every athlete's goal is to get a gold medal, or simply a medal, and so is mine. I'll just train as hard as I can - and we'll have to see."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Good at horsing around

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