Zhejiang's first Olympics equestrian athlete
Zhang Xingjia competes in the equestrian jumping competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Aug 3. [Photo/zj.zjol.com.cn]
Born and raised in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, Zhang Xingjia became the first equestrian from the province to compete at the Olympic Games that was held in Tokyo this year.
The 22-year-old's interest in the sport was piqued by his father who started running a horse ranch in Jiaxing in 2008.
Zhang picked up equestrian during his junior high school summer vacation in 2012 and displayed a natural affinity for the sport. He has since been juggling his studies in Jiaxing on the weekdays and training sessions in Beijing and Shanghai on the weekends.
After graduating from senior high school in 2016, Zhang traveled to Belgium to further his studies and equestrian ambitions. He eventually qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games through his results from competitions in 2019 and 2020.
Although Zhang failed to make the final in Tokyo, his father Zhang Yonggui has been thoroughly satisfied with his son's performances, noting that the fact the former even qualified for the Olympics is a sign of the robust development of equestrian in Zhejiang.
"When I first started out in equestrian, I could not even spot a couple of qualified athletes," said the father.
Zhang Yonggui believes that equestrian not only builds strong bodies but also shapes a person's character as it is a sport that is heavily dependent on the relationship between horses and mankind. He hopes more Chinese parents would share his views and give their children a chance to try equestrian.
According to Zhang Yonggui, equestrian races have been added to Zhejiang's provincial-level games as well as China's Youth Games, and the number of equestrian clubs is on the rise in Zhejiang. He hopes that the equestrian competition at next year's Asian Games in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, will further boost the profile of the sport in Zhejiang.
Zhang Xingjia in his Team China uniform for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. [Photo/zj.zjol.com.cn]