Pakistan’s First Rider to Qualify for Tokyo Olympics Will Compete With Horse Named Azad Kashmir

DESPARDES — Pakistan’s top top equestrian athlete Usman Khan will represent the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which kick off in the Japanese capital in July.

Khan, 38, and his horse, Azad Kashmir, secured their maiden Olympic spot in the individual eventing discipline in December, becoming the first Pakistani to do so.

“I wanted to be able to compete at the Olympic level, but motivation has always been about Pakistan,” the equestrian holding dual nationality said.

For almost 15 years, the overseas Pakistani settled in Melbourne, Australia, juggled riding with a day job working as an IT consultant to keep his Olympic dream alive.

Khan went to a university in Adelaide and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Geographical Information System, but soon after switched gears and picked up eventing – an equestrian discipline which combines dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

Khan was seven when he first started horse riding. His father, a military officer at the time, would take him and his younger brother, Salman, for lessons at the Cavalry Ground army riding school in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore — the capital of Punjab which is Pakistan’s largest province and its hinterland.

“Growing up, I always wanted to do something as an athlete for Pakistan,” Khan told media in a phone interview.

Khan is hoping his horse will highlight the natural beauty of Kashmir amid the simmering tensions.

“I love my horses,” Khan said. “I always named them to signify the bond I have had with what has been close to me in life.

“So, naming Azad Kashmir is just in the series of how I have named my horses. The land of Kashmir is blessed with breathtaking and charming beauty.

“I shall merely ride in the Olympics to do well with the horse and make my country proud.”