(MENAFN - The Peninsula) By Rizwan Rehmat I The Peninsula
DOHA: Dutch equestrian legend Jan Tops believes Qatar's young riders - keen to make a mark in the world of horsemanship - are heading in the right direction.
Tops, who launched the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT), has helped Qatar drive its equestrian ambitions by finding and grooming young talent in the country.
'You see the Qatari riders have more knowledge. You see now a lot of the riders come to Europe to buy horses, to be involved in other competitions. The numbers are growing, Tops said in an interview.
A Q & A session with the Netherlands' gold medal winning member in the team event at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Q: What's your view of the overall growth of the sport here?
A: You see the riders have more knowledge. You see now a lot of the riders come to Europe to buy horses, to be involved in other competitions. The numbers are growing. Last year (Sheikh) Ali won silver medal in the individual and bronze in the team competition at the Asian Games. I think we are there and people (here) understand more about the horses. Having this facility is great and I would like this momentum to keep going. We are moving in the right direction and I hope we continue in this fashion, to keep growing so that we become one of the leading nations in the coming few years in the world.
Q: Do you think it is possible for Qatar to become a leading nation in this sport?
A; Yes, absolutely. It's all about the quality. We don't maybe have the numbers but if you have a good team of dedicated people, if you do intelligent work, if you have a good vision then I think Qatar can be leading in this sport.
Q: Do you feel the home riders have the flair for this kind of sport?
A: They have not been exposed yet. Everything has to go in steps. A lot of the (young) riders have not been exposed to the big competitions. Obviously we need more foundation in their riding, in their flat work and how to build horses. But you see that there are lot of more horses. This summer they were more nosy to see the horses, to come to Europe, to buy horses, to be involved. I hope we can keep this trend going.
Q: Are there any young Qatari riders who could challenge Bassem or Sheikh Ali?
A: We have a few more riders and I am not telling names (smiles). They have the potential to be very good. Obviously they have not done it yet. But I hope in a year or two they will break through once they get the feel of top competitions. It is an interesting stage of their careers. They are young and exciting riders. Other young riders will also follow suit and we can have quality riders.
Q: Do you feel 20 is the right number events for championships in a year?
A: We already have confirmed that Montreal and Stockholm will be the new venues for next year. If you ask me I am happy with 18 also. But it is good to see the growing numbers. Clearly we make a difference around the world with 20 events. We have a solid footprint and our TV viewers have increased to unbelievable numbers.
Q: So Doha will be a permanent venue for LGCT?
A: Doha will be the final venue of this year but we are negotiating with Qatar (for a new deal) at this moment. Like I said we will tell more at the end of the year. But definitely Doha is part of the LGCT family and we love coming here. It's very important for us to be in this part of the world. We have great relations built over the years. All the people associated with this championship, all the riders - they just love being here in this magnificent arena. This is really a horse village - from the stabling, to the arena, everything is horse-minded. We all love coming here. We look forward to being here knowing the best riders are here. If we could do the same as last year, it would be a perfect picture. Bassem winning the finals in front of his home crowd was amazing. This year we have three riders and I hope they would be on the podium.