India’s dressage team of Sudipta Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda and Anush Agarwalla shrug off battles with Federation to claim first Asian Games gold in 41 years
(From right) Hriday Vipul Chheda, Anush Agarwalla, Divyakriti Singh and Sudipti Hajela pose with their gold medals, on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
The quartet of Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh, Hriday Chheda and Anush Agarwalla, comprising the dressage team, created history by clinching India’s first Asian Games gold medal in equestrian in 41 years. This, after a series of controversies, one of which threatened their participation in this very event.
The Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) has attracted negative headlines for some time now. The issues have ranged from sacking of selection committee members to selection irregularities. Consequently, riders have knocked on the court’s doors and time and again proved the federation wrong in many of their decisions. In fact, such has been the functioning of the EFI that back in 2014, the sports ministry had even threatened to derecognise them for sending a lame horse to the Asian Games. Coming back to 2023, one of the riders—a two-time national champion—sued the EFI and got a verdict in his favour when he alleged that the federation was deliberately hindering his pursuit for a spot on the Asian Games team. Thereafter, these very gold medallists, who have made history here, knocked on the court’s doors citing selection issues with the EFI. “Three months ago, the EFI refused to send these four young riders to the Asian Games. Only after the riders took legal recourse, was an out-of-court settlement reached and they were able to participate. If EFI had their way, this gold medal would never have been possible,” former India rider Col Rajesh Pattu, an Arjuna awardee and a three-time Asian Games medallist, told mid-day.
India’s equestrian team of Anush Agarwalla (left), Sudipti Hajela, Divyakriti Singh and Hriday Chheda on the podium after winning gold in Hangzhou yesterday. Pic/AFP
“Full credit goes to the parents of these riders and of course the riders themselves, who bore costs running into crores of rupees, without any help from the authorities to continue their riding dream. What these four youngsters have achieved will now encourage more riders to take up the sport and bring international glory to our country,” added Col Pattu.
As for the gold medallists, they are just grateful that they made it against all odds. “Whatever happened in the past is over, but we were able to make it only because all four of us stood by each other through those tough times.
“We are very grateful to our parents for supporting us throughout our stay in Europe, where we have been training for the last few years. In 2018, we didn’t have a dressage team. We didn’t even have three people competing. I’m happy that this time we had a team of four and not only did we participate, we got gold. Coming from India, it’s not easy to make it in equestrian. The facilities are not very developed,” said Anush.
“Each one of us has made a lot of sacrifices, but the whole journey makes a lot of sense now,” concluded Divyakriti.