New Delhi Skyline Click image for my tweets from the field
There is something deeply unsettling about departing from a city at 8pm, flying about in steerage for an eternity, and finally landing, only to discover that it is still 8pm in the city of my arrival. It seems to provide unwanted evidence that all our travails are life’s private jokes against us and us alone.
I arrived in New Delhi for the FEI International Tent Pegging Championships after fifteen hours of flying. Although I have been to the city before, I suspect that New Delhi will never cease to be a full sensory assault: a crush of sight, sound, scent, tactility, where even the air has a distinct taste.
I was met at the airport by Nafees Anwar, a cheerful minder despatched by the championships’ organising committee to keep me out of trouble, a truly futile errand. While we awaited the arrival of some of the other teams, be briefed me on how the coming days will unfold.
These are clearly going to be the largest tent pegging championships of all time: fifteen countries will take the field: Australia; Egypt; India; Iraq; Israel; Sudan; Ukraine; Romania; Mongolia; Oman; Pakistan; South Africa; Yemen; the United Kingdom; and of course Canada.
The list of nations reflects the countries where tent pegging is most popular, perhaps because like the sport itself, their societies are intimately bound-up with the primordial domestication of the horse and the rise of chivalry and cavalry warfare.
The earliest archaeological evidence of equine domestication is from the Ukraine. The oldest representation of working horses is from Iraq. Tent pegging was born in India and Pakistan during the Bronze Age. Egypt emerged as a great power as the Pharaohs yoked horses to war chariots. Oman and Yemen share in the genesis of the Arabian horse and long-distance cavalry campaigns. Romania bears its name from its colonisation by the Roman cavalry and legions. Mongolia’s Genghis Khan created the last global empire to be conquered from the saddle. The state of South Africa was born amidst cavalry combat between the British and the Boers. The Australians led the last traditional cavalry campaign at Beersheba. To this day, the horse-mounted Janjaweed continue to bring-down death upon villages throughout Sudan.
Not for the first time, Canada is something of the odd duck of the tent pegging championships. The other arriving athletes keep asking me, "So where's your support team?" I do not think they entirely believe me when I tell them that I am my support team.
The schedule is a frenzied one, and I suspect that I will have to confine myself to brief mobile postings of Twitter tweets, Facebook status updates, and the occasional Flickr photo upload, with my blog articles delayed to stolen moments later in the week. I invite anyone who is pathologically idle and wishes to keep up with the progress of the championships to subscribe to my social media feeds or check my Twitter scroll at the top of my blog page.
I will take to the field tomorrow, and will do my best to ride fast, strike true, and represent Canada with honour.
The Globe and Mail Click logo for my commentary article
I was quite taken aback by the level of political carping against the Own the Podium programme during the Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics, much of which seemed to suggest that the quest for medals is somehow vulgar or not Canadian.
Accordingly, as I prepared to ride for Canada at next week’s FEI International Tent Pegging Championships, I put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) in an effort to articulate why I believe that the pursuit of victory is not just a noble end in itself, but can also be a means towards still greater triumphs serving the public good.
My article appeared in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, and has prompted a quite a number of e-mails to me from the newspaper’s readership. To answer many of those letters at once, tent pegging is not supported by Own the Podium or by any public funds of any kind.
I will be happy to place first, or last, or anywhere in between at the championships, so long as I conduct myself in a way that brings honour to Canada. By the same token, I feel I would be doing my country and my sport a disservice if I were to strive for anything less than victory.
It may be unfashionable in some quarters, but I am unashamed to believe that I ride for a country that deserves to own the podium.
My Social Media Communities Click logo for the corresponding community
It has been my life's ambition to evade growing up as I grow older. So far so good, but over the next fortnight, I may discover that I have failed to outrun senility.
Throwing caution and judgement to the wind, I have taken up my sword and lance to ride for Canada once more at the FEI International Tent Pegging Championships, to be held 23-28 March in Delhi, India.
Despite its curious name, tent pegging has nothing to do with tents and little to do with pegs. A 2'500 year-old equestrian combat sport, it was created to hone the skills of cavalry officers in wielding the terror of cold steel from the saddle. Today, it is one of the ten official disciplines of the Fédération internationale équestre (FEI), the world governing body for Olympic, Paralympic, and international equestrian sport.
My tent pegging page has the details of the sport, the national team, our relationship with UNICEF, and my somewhat wayward experiences as an athlete.
As the vagaries of technology allow, I will be tweeting, keeping a periodic blog, and posting images of my (mis)adventures in Delhi, through the social media communities above.
At the 2008 International Championships, fortune flashed her mischievous streak, and UNICEF Team Canada performed irrationally well, triumphing over tent pegging’s traditional superpowers. We will, therefore, enter the 2010 International Championships carrying something of a burden of expectations.
Whatever the ultimate medal standings, however, I hope above all else to represent Canada with honour and integrity, both on the field of competition and off.