At last year's International Tent Pegging Championships
Canada will once again be represented at the International Tent Pegging Championships, when Akaash Maharaj captains UNICEF Team Canada at the 2008 games, to be held this January, in Imphal, Manipur, India.
"I can imagine no greater privilege than to ride both for the honour of my country and for the cause of the world's most vulnerable children," said Akaash. "I hope that our team will make a meaningful contribution towards mobilising public support for UNICEF's campaign against the scourge of childhood AIDS, as well as serve Canada creditably in the medal standings."
With a history stretching back 2 500 years, tent pegging emerged out of cavalry training exercises, and is often known as equestrian skill-at-arms. It is one of only ten disciplines officially recognised by the Fédération équestre internationale (FEI), the global governing body for Olympic and international equestrian sport.
Repeating the unique Canadian arrangement he struck for the 2007 International Championships held in Oman, Akaash has again declined corporate sponsorship and has instead donated his team's naming rights to the United Nations Children's Fund. Carrying the humanitarian organisation's colours in India alongside the maple leaf, he hopes to further UNICEF's Unite for Children campaign against childhood HIV-AIDS, a disease that currently infects 1 200 children per day and that claims the life of one child under fifteen every minute.
Akaash trains at the Meadows Equestrian Centre in Uxbridge, Ontario, and began tent pegging as a rider with the Cavalry Squadron of the Governor General's Horse Guards, an armoured reconaissance regiment of the Canadian Forces.
He has volunteered with UNICEF since he was a child, and was Chair of UNICEF's Orange Box Hallowe'en programme in Ontario. He was also a director of UNICEF at Oxford University and of the Commonwealth of Nations Association for UNICEF.