- Former Liberal Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin was sending around an e-mail last week extolling the truly remarkable achievement of Akaash Maharaj and encouraging people to donate to Unicef's Unite for Children campaign.
So who's Akaash Maharaj? Most of the time he is the Toronto chief executive of a not-for-profit organization working in conflict resolution and is a former national policy chair for the federal Liberal Party.
But on Feb. 20, as team captain, he took three gold medals and a bronze (out of four disciplines) for Canada in the International Tent Pegging Championships in Imphal, India.
Amazingly, he had competed in the arcane, dangerous, 2,500-year-old sport for the very first time in Oman only last year.
So, for those of you who don't know tent pegging (which would probably be 99 per cent of you) it is one of only 10 recognized disciplines of the global governing body for Olympic and international equestrian sport. It's a skill-at-arms sport from cavalry days, in which clearly fearless competitors use razor sharp lances and swords to spear targets while riding at a breakneck gallop.
As the team captain, Mr. Maharaj is the first Canadian to compete and he filled out his team on the spot in Imphal by picking up local teammates on the eve of the championship. The four rode to victory against internationally renowned teams from the region.
Mr. Maharaj, who has declined corporate sponsorship and instead donated his team's naming rights to Unicef, has donated most of his medals to Unicef, which plans to auction them at an event this summer for Unite for Children, which funds HIV-AIDS projects.
The Canadian team boasted some big-name staff; former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Hal Jackman was its honorary equerry and Mr. Tobin was the team's honorary steward.
"I'm honorary cheerleader and supporter," he told Nobody's Business, adding sardonically that the federal Liberal caucus "might do well to replicate" the skills in tent pegging. Mr. Maharaj, Mr. Tobin says, "competes like a warrior and gives like a true holy man." A captivatingly written account of the adventure can be found at Mr. Maharaj's blogsite, at maharaj.org.