Alex aiming to strike gold in Tokyo

Hua Tian primed for breakthrough at 2020 Olympics after helping Team China earn first-ever eventing ticket to Games

In the summer of 2008, Alex Hua Tian’s much-anticipated Olympic debut at his home Beijing Games ended in bitter disappointment.

He was just 18, the youngest rider in Olympic history competing in eventing, a sport that few in China had ever heard about. His dream ended when he fell off his horse during the cross country leg.

Last week, Hua Tian helped China secure its first eventing team ticket to next summer’s Tokyo Olympics at a special qualifier in Saumur, France. He described it as a “fairytale” and an “unbelievable” success.

Sitting in his stable yard near Manchester, he still thinks about that summer of ’08 in Hong Kong, where the equestrian events of the Beijing Games were held.

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“It was very difficult for me to come to terms with the fairytale being broken in the way it was, falling off my mount at the eighth fence in the cross country. I was young and naive. It took a long time, eight years, to get back to my next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.”

The healing process was long and painful. He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Games in London, where he was born to an English mother and a Chinese father.

Rio was a turning point for his career. Hoping for a top-20 finish, he placed eighth.

“I thought if everything went well I would be very delighted to be in the top 20,” he said. “Eighth place was not what I expected.”

Hua Tian admitted his favorite question from the media is always about his “goal” at the next Olympic Games.

“The result at Rio gave me a huge amount of confidence,” he said. “But I have to be very clear that I had a lot of luck. A lot of things went my way. If a few more things go my way in Tokyo, it could be one of the results you dream of.”

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