Kolkata boy, Anush Agarwalla added another feather to India’s sporting cap, as he became the first Indian ever to qualify for the FEI World Championship in Dressage, which took place in Denmark. Currently residing in Germany, Anush gallops forward with his dream of bringing Olympic glory to India. In a candid conversation with The Telegraph, he talked about the incredible feat, his journey and his aspirations.
It is an incredible personal feat and, at the same time, a national feat. How did you feel walking into the competition?
It’s great and a proud feeling walking into a competition like this and to be competing against the best equestrians around the world. This was the first time India has qualified for the World Championships in Dressage, so I’m really proud to be the one who achieved this feat alongside Shruti Vora. The crowd was amazing and there was an electric atmosphere in the stadium.
As the first ever Indian to qualify for the World Championships in Dressage and the youngest athlete this year, I’m sure there is some pressure, and, at the same time, some well-deserved focus and attention. How are you balancing it all ?
Yes, of course. It has taken a lot of hard work, dedication and focus over the years to be here. And of certainly, there is a lot of pressure to perform well at a show of this level, but I like the pressure as it keeps me on my toes and focused. Over the years I have become mentally stronger and more adept at handling this pressure. The most important aspect is always the training, and if training is good, then I know I’m ready.
When did it all start for you, and how has the journey been?
I sat for the first time on a horse when I was three years old when my parents took me to the Tollygunge Club. What started as a ritual weekend joy-ride soon turned into a passion. At eight, my mother enrolled me to get riding lessons, and I started competing in local events for children. At 11, I started going to New Delhi to pursue my equestrian dreams. during the weekends, so that I could still attend school during the week. This continued till I was 16 after which we decided to shift to Delhi to pursue equestrian more seriously. Soon, I realised that in order to compete at the highest levels I would need to move to the more advanced training facilities in Europe or the UK. Coming in contact with Hubertus Schmidt turned it around for me. He assessed me and I shifted to Germany four weeks later It has been a great journey over the past five years.
How has it been training under Hubertus Schmidt?
He has been my coach for the past five years, but more than that, he has been a great mentor, and a great friend. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him and I’m really grateful for everything he has done for me. Together we have worked through the failures as a team and also celebrated great successes. He is my biggest supporter but also my harshest critic.
Could you talk a bit about Sir Caramello Old?
He is a horse with a great character, great passion and loves to work. He is extremely social and we have a really special connection and love to go hacking in the forests for hours. He loves to go out on the fields and the paddocks and is really motivated for the daily training. As a showman he loves to be the centre of attention, especially when there are cameras around. To add to his daily sugar treats, apples and carrots, raspberries are his favourites. Together we have created history for India and I can’t put into words how proud I am of him. He will always have a special place in my heart.
How motivating do you think Fouaad Mirza’s journey been when it comes to equestrianism?
Fouaad Mirza’s journey and participation at the Tokyo Olympics has introduced the sport to a lot of young Indians who hopefully will aspire to reach the pinnacle in this sport. It has motivated me greatly as it proved that nothing is impossible and consistency is key.
Your further aspirations when it comes to the sport ?
My dream has always been to be the first Olympian for India in Dressage. I missed out at the Tokyo Olympics by one spot, but I hope to achieve this feat at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
Do you see more young people getting equestrian? What’s your message for them ?
Over the past few years, there has been great interest from young Indians in the equestrian sport. My message to them is: Nothing is impossible and if you can believe it, you can achieve it. It takes a lot of hard work, focus and unfazed determination but in the end it will be worth it.
Who’s your biggest sporting inspiration?
My biggest sporting inspiration has always been Cristiano Ronaldo. He is one of the greatest footballers of all-time. He is a legend of the sport and inspires me greatly. The most inspirational thing about him is his commitment, his passion, and his mental strength.
Hailing from Kolkata always has unique shades about it. What's the most Kolkata thing about you?
The most Kolkata thing about me is that I love to have street food.