China's Rio-bound Hua Tian still 'one in a billion'
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Alex Hua Tian was understandably distraught when, competing in three-day eventing as China's first and only Olympic equestrian, he was thrown from his horse at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Now 26, and with Rio firmly in his sights, the tall rider with the 'one-in-a-billion' nickname feels that painful experience may ultimately have been all for the best.
"It was a fairy tale really, and the fairy tale ended when I fell off in Hong Kong at the cross-country," he told Reuters during competition at last weekend's prestigious Badminton Horse Trials.
"It was a real heartbreaking moment personally for me ... but without that experience and investment I wouldn’t be here now, doing it professionally.
"Although at the time it was a really devastating blow ... it’s something that I have to thank a lot for because it gave me a taste but it didn’t give me everything. And it’s certainly given me the drive to keep pushing."
Everything had come almost too easily until then for Hua Tian, who attended the elite Eton College independent boys' school near London that has produced 19 British prime ministers including David Cameron.
His English mother had been involved with the Beijing bid committee while wealthy Guanghzou property tycoon Jiang Fengcan, caught up in the excitement, provided all the funding he could have dreamt of.