Horse & Hound

Alex Hua Tian

The Chinese Olympian on being terrible with heights, pink jodhpurs and a failure to concentrat­e

- As told to Pippa Roome

Who was your first pony?

Timmy – he was small and stubborn. Timmy was a bay riding school pony at Lo Wu Saddle Club in Hong Kong whom I rode in my – and I think his – first-ever cross-country round at Beas River, where the 2008 Olympic cross-country was held years later. We stopped at every fence at least once and finished last with 190 penalties!

If you weren’t an event rider, you would be…

A Formula One driver.

What superstiti­ons or pre-show rituals do you have?

Just trying to get there on time is enough for me...

What do you eat for breakfast?

I stop at a very convenient bakery on the way to the yard every morning for a couple of croissants and a smoothie. Every Sunday, I’m grumpy that they are closed.

What would others say your most annoying habit is?

My girlfriend Sarah Higgins says sleep-talking and snoring... and being late for everything... and not listening – there’s more, but I stopped listening.

The bravest thing you’ve done?

I took Sarah to visit the Great Wall of China a few years ago having not been myself since I was around seven. It crosses some of the most rugged terrain you could imagine and most of it involves climbing up and down very long and steep staircases – I am terrible with heights. I led Sarah up the first section, turned around and realised that I wasn’t able to go back down again! In the end Sarah had to coax me down one step at a time while grandparen­ts were overtaking me.

What’s your favourite place to visit?

In non-coronaviru­s times, I travel back to China once a month on average for a few days. The trips are always crazy busy, but everything is changing and developing at such a pace you really feel like you’re standing in a place where anything’s possible.

What’s been your worst wardrobe malfunctio­n?

The Monday before my first Badminton I washed every pair of white jodhpurs with a red paper napkin in one of the pockets. They all came out pink...

Do you have a dog?

Bodger is a quarter-Staffie and three-quarters Jack Russell. Other than his conformati­on, he is perfect. His head is a bit big, his back a bit long and his legs a bit short.

What kind of sleeper are you?

I’m a 100% sleeper. I can sleep anywhere, any time and love my sleep. Eight hours is OK but more is better!

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