Yes, possums, you read the headline right! My endurance fans are abuzz at being in with a chance of racing at the Olympic Games in 2020.
But how could this be, you ask, with equestrian sport in the Olympic bad books?
Simple. Dubai’s head honcho Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum came out this week and said that he was seriously considering a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. As we all know, he is horse-mad, and despite being in a bit of hot water last year, is very much endurance-mad, too.
Add to this the fact his wife (No.2) is the boss-lady of the FEI, Princess Haya, who also happens to be an Olympic Committee (IOC) member.
Do the math!
See why endurance riders around the globe are eyeing their four-legged prospects for 10 years’ time?
A few tweaks might be needed for us “others” to keep up with the arabs … a previous world record for 120km is 4 hours 32 minutes and 36 seconds … the same distance was covered here in New Zealand in 7:46:55 at the nationals earlier this year; and the 160km world record is 6:28:28; at the 2010 NZ nationals the winning time for the same distance was 10:14:42. (The fastest time recorded in NZ was 8:24:37, at the 2009 nationals.)
Talking of world records, there are reports of a 160km ride in the desert in 5:45:44. Yousuf Ahmad Al Beloushi riding the Aussie horse Jayhal Shazal averaged 27.77kmph for the ride, with a racey 35.53kmph average on the final loop.
My spies tell me there are queries about the actual distance of the course, which was in six loops (sounds like a boring trip), but on the other hand there seems to be no official results anywhere (FEI or otherwise) from this ride.
Even if endurance doesn’t make it as an official sport (I am taking bets which equestrian discipline will get booted out in favour of it) then it can be an unofficial, unapproved, non-FEI event, just like the one the Dubai Equestrian Club ran in Britain last year.
Oh, and I think it’s only fair that Sheikh Mohammed stumps up for all the horses, riders and support crew to go to Dubai in 2020 … now that would make it an excellent demonstration!