IT has taken 25 years of trying. Finally, in his sixth and likely last Games, Qabil Ambak was in tears as the national anthem was played for the first time ever in the Asian Games equestrian competition.
The 43-year-old, making his sixth Asian Games outing, won the individual dressage competition at the Tong Lu Equestrian Centre yesterday.
It took two veterans to deliver the gold – Qabil and his trusty 17-year-old horse Rosenstolz.
Rosenstolz – which is around 51 years’ old in human terms – has been with Qabil for seven years and also helped him win silver in the last Games in Jakarta.
Qabil went through testing times to get the gold medal for Malaysia in Hangzhou. He almost did not make it to Hangzhou as he lacked the funds and then he had to leave his young family behind to train on his own in Denmark.
Qabil also had to ditch his plan to use a leased horse, Napoli, as he felt the younger animal was not really ready for a high-level competition in Asia. It proved to be the right decision but Qabil still went through anxious moments when Rosenstolz fell sick after coming out of quarantine two weeks ago.
“It has been a 25-year wait for the gold,” said Qabil who made his Asian Games debut in Bangkok back in 1998 when he was just 18.
“I have won bronze and silver medals before, so I am very happy that I can achieve this after a long time in this sport.
“Words can’t describe the tension I felt leading up to the competition.
“My horse was sick earlier and on the first day of the competition, was a bit tensed up because of the long wait and hot weather.
The organisers had to stop the competition for a while as they did not want the horses to suffer in extreme weather conditions.
“I also spent a lot of my own money preparing and training in Aarhus, Denmark since July. Not many are willing to spend such money and I think I may be the crazy one to do it,” said Qabil, who would not answer when asked if he would go for another campaign in Nagoya, Japan in three years time.
“If my health permits me, maybe. But it’s not so easy now that I have my family and kids.
“It’s quite tough training and being away from home,” said Qabil, who rode his heart out for the five-minute performance.
Qabil was the third last competitor to start in the final field of 15 riders and he went to the top with 75.780 points using a Chinese inspired tune.
It was a career best performance and his score held against the next two competitors. Hong Kong’s Jacqueline Siu, the winner at the last Asiad in Indonesia in 2018, settled for silver with 73.450 points.
India’s Agarwalla Anus took bronze with 73.030 points.
It was the eighth career Asian Games medal for Qabil after previously winning three silvers and four bronzes.
“I felt really good today, although the horse was a bit tired today because of the heat and three days of competition.
“He (Rosenstolz) is an old horse compared to others but, no doubt, he tried his best today and I felt he tried to give his best and for me.”
Hangzhou 2023: Gold in individual dressage
Jakarta 2018: Silver in individual dressage
Guangzhou 2010: Silver in team dressage, bronze in individual dressage
Doha 2006: Silver in team dressage, bronze in individual dressage
Busan 2002: Bronze in team showjumping
Bangkok 1998: Silver in team dressage