Chen hopes Diriyah Equestrian Festival proves ‘priceless’ in her bid to achieve Olympic dream

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Jasmine Chen hopes to score a qualification for Tokyo 2020 at the Diriyah Equestrian Festival.
Jasmine Chen hopes to score a qualification for Tokyo 2020 at the Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

DIRIYAH An art expert from world-renowned auction house Sotheby’s is hoping her participation in this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival will prove to be priceless in hammering home her bid for Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification.

Taiwanese rider Jasmine Chen is seeking to win the points needed on her visit to Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Season to achieve her dream of participating in next year’s summer Games in Japan.

Doing such would not only mean that the 30-year-old had conquered her ultimate ambition but would also provide absolute vindication of her decision to take a yearlong sabbatical from her directorial role at the famed — and regularly record-breaking — auctioneer.

Despite going up against international champions at the two-week festival — taking place Dec. 12-14 and 19-21 at Al Duhami farm, owned by Saudi Olympic hero Ramzy Al Duhami and wife Sara Baban —Chen cannot wait to be in with the chance of sealing her dream ticket to the biggest event in world sport.

She said: “The Olympics is my life dream. I am currently in the lead on the ranking list in my group, so I am very close. Hopefully the two weeks at the Diriyah Equestrian Festival will cement my spot for Tokyo.

“I’m extremely excited to be competing in the DEF. Ramzy and Sara have both told me so much about the show. From the photos and videos of previous competitions, the place looks amazing. I try to focus my show schedule on outdoor competitions with big arenas and sunny weather, so the DEF will be perfect for me and my horses.”

The contest will break even more historical ground by having women riders compete alongside their male counterparts, both inside and outside of the arena, for the first time.

Working as a Contemporary Art Specialist, Chen — who is based in Belgium — has a shrewd eye for era-defining pieces. She truly believes she sees something similar in the hosting of this year’s Festival.

“I am very proud to be a part of such a historic moment,” said the two-time World Equestrian Games athlete, who started riding when she was just eight years old. “It’s an important step for Saudi Arabia, the whole Muslim community, as well as the international female athlete population as a whole.

“This will be my first time visiting Saudi Arabia. It is such a powerful country with a very rich and dynamic culture and history. Through the riding world I have met many friends from Saudi Arabia, all of whom have been extremely accomplished and lovely, so it will be wonderful to finally visit the country.”

Over the course of its two weekends, the Diriyah Equestrian Festival will welcome 150 riders, 150 grooms, 50 officials, 300 companions and trainers, 250 members of the club and 150 crew members. An estimated 1,500 visitors are expected to attend and will witness Saudi Arabia’s famous hospitality with the offering of 15 food trucks catering to international cuisines, ten shops and game and federation exhibitors.

The Festival is part of the wider Diriyah Season, an epic month of iconic sports events. Known as the home of kings and heroes, the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site Diriyah will also stage performances from some of the biggest music artists on the planet, including Lil Wayne, Tyga and Imagine Dragons. — SG


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