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Young man trailblazer thrilled to be up for two awards in sport’s best-of-decade vote –

China’s trailblazing Olympian Alex Hua Tian has been nominated in two categories for the decade-­reviewing 2020 FEI Awards. PROVIDEDTOCHINADAILY

Alex Hua Tian says he is “delighted and surprised” to feature among a list of nominees for awards to honor the sport’s best of the last decade.

In a normal season, the annual FEI Awards usually crown champions for their pursuits over the course of the calendar year. However, with equestrian’s calendar decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport’s global governing body is this year letting fans consider the winners of each award since 2009 and vote for who is the greatest of the past decade.

The voting opened on Tuesday and runs until Nov 22, with the best-of-the-best winners to be announced at a special virtual ceremony next month.

Hua is nominated in two categories. The 31-year-old won the Rising Star honor in 2009. The Horsemanship Movement, which he co-founded, claimed the Solidarity award in 2018.

“I must admit, the 11 years since receiving the Rising Star award feels a very long time ago and it is quite surreal to be nominated for the same award again,” Hua told Xinhua.

“I will have to leave it up to voters whether they think in that time that my ‘star has risen’, ‘my star is still yet to rise’ or that ‘my star has extinguished’!

“I am delighted that our charity program, The Horsemanship Movement, might get another opportunity for some limelight. Despite a quiet 2020, we have big plans for the future and I am very proud of what we are trying to do.”

At the age of 18, Hua became China’s first equestrian Olympian at the 2008 Beijing Games, and remains the youngest eventer in Olympic history.

After missing out on London 2012, he bounced back to reach Rio 2016. Last year, Hua helped China qualify for the team eventing competition at the Tokyo Olympics before booking his own individual ticket two months later.

“It’s a blur of great fun, serious hard work, some tears and a lot of tremendous memories,” said Hua of his career.

Despite the sizable challenges presented by the postponement of the Tokyo Games, UK-based Hua has kept himself busy training in Manchester for the past several months, even managing to continue with the country currently under a second lockdown.

“Looking after our horses is a matter of animal welfare and so we are allowed to travel to the stables and continue similar to normal as long as our team observes strict social distancing,” Hua told China Daily.

“As we are out in the countryside we are less at risk but still taking all measures as seriously as possible.

“Competitions are not allowed during this lockdown but the European season is now over for eventing so it hasn’t affected my horses. I’m just keeping fingers crossed that we are in a position to lift some of these measures by March so that we can run next year!”

Like all athletes, planning ahead remains problematic during the pandemic. However, Hua is staying optimistic about his Olympic preparations.

“The horses are well, enjoying their postseason holiday! They are starting to do some bits and pieces of training ready to start seriously again next month,” he said.

“Under normal circumstances, at this stage I would have a clear plan for each horse’s preparation for the Olympics next year, tailored to each horse’s training and preparation needs.

“However, during the pandemic, planning that far in advance is pointless. This will be the biggest challenge next year, balancing the overall plan whilst being reactive enough to go with the flow.”

Another Chinese rider, Li Zhenqiang, who won the 2019 FEI Against All Odds award, is nominated in the same category this year-another sign, Hua reckons, of how rapidly equestrian sport is growing in China.

“It is wonderful for the industry to get this level of recognition with three nominations,” he said.

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