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China to develop equestrian club system
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Chinese Equestrianism Association (CEA), China's top equestrian regulator, is working to improve the equestrian clubs to boost the competitiveness of the sport, said an official of the association.

"Equestrian clubs may be a way out for China to develop the sport," said CEA secretary Cheng Qing in an interview with Xinhua. "It's easier to start with the fundamental jobs in clubs and good coaches and riders are easier to pan out there."

CEA has introduced an evaluation system from Britain to enhance the management and training of Chinese equestrian clubs, said Cheng, who is also the head of China's equestrian team at the Olympic events held in Hong Kong. China now has about 80 equestrian clubs.

The Beijing Games is the first Olympiad in which China fields riders for the equestrian events.

Chinese young rider Hua Tian fell from his horse while trying to clear hurdles during the cross-country phase of the Olympic eventing on Aug. 11, dashing all the hopes of his Olympic debut. Another rider, Liu Lina, got eliminated after the first round of dressage competition.

China's team show jumpers, Huang Zuping, Zhang Bin, Zhao Zhiwen and Li Zhenqiang, were all edged out after yielding 99 team penalties in the Olympic show-jumping competition, finishing the last among the all 16 teams.

Cheng attributed the team's dissatisfying results to the lack of experience of riders and the quality of horses.

"In equestrian events, experience and horses are of vital importance," said the secretary. "World-class riders are normally around 40-years-old and they take part in dozens of international events each year."

"Chinese riders have little experience of high-level competitions," added Cheng. "Besides, their horses can not be compared to others'. Some were even rented to compete in the Olympic Games."

Show jumpers Huang Zuping and Zhao Zhiwen's horses were both rented. They told Xinhua that their horses had never conquered obstacles of such height before. "Though my horse had tried his best, the obstacles were still insurmountable," said Zhao.

Acknowledging that equestrianism is very costly, Cheng did not think state funding is a practical way to boost a country's equestrian competitiveness. "Now, no government in the world pays for the horses," he added.

Cheng said funding of the sport should be mainly from entrepreneurial sponsors. Hua Tian's expenses at the Games were covered by Jiang Fengcan, a Guangzhou-based businessman. "We look forward to seeing more of such cooperation," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)

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