Jun 20th, 2018, 08:55 AM

Equestrian is life for 2020 Olympic hopeful

By Eboni NiCole
Equestrian is life for 2020 Olympic hopeful Amor
Image Credit: Instagram/ichiarambaeq
Chiara Amor trains rigorously for 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

While blindly flipping through TV channels on a remote, a then two-year-old Chiara Amor landed on a horse racing channel. This is where her love for horseback riding begins.

 “I thought horses were the most majestic thing in the world and I thought, I want to do that,” Amor said. “So, I wanted to become a jockey when I was two … I started lessons at four.”

Amor, a junior Psychology major at the American University of Paris, was born and raised in Australia, but also lived in the Philippines where she started training on a more competitive level at age 10. She was also a full-time dancer growing up and had dreams of competing in the Olympics as a gymnast and equestrian rider.

“I was trying to balance gymnastics and riding because in my brain, I was going to the Olympics for both (at the time),” she said.

Though Amor let go of her Olympic gymnast quest during her early teenage years, she switched her focus to riding. Her first competition was 2010, where she jumped 45 centimeters high.

Image Credit: Instagram/ ichiarambaeq

“In 2012, I started training with an Australian Olympian, Vicki Roycroft,” Amor said. “With her, I qualified for the youth Olympic games in 2013. I got my COC, which is certificate of capability, but … the way the selection process is done, I opted not to compete in the youth Olympic games in equestrian.”

Now at 20, the newly elected Undergraduate Student Council Vice-President balances the demands of school life while keeping a rigorous training schedule, and competes a few times a month in hopes that her scores are good enough to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This sport is comprised of various disciplines – Amor’s specialty is show jumping, also called “stadium jumping,” “open jumping” or “jumping.” Amor was the youngest athlete to compete in the 2015 and 2017 Southeast Asian Games, where she won a silver medal. She also placed second in the 2016 Longines Masters de Paris Grand Prix. 

Northern France is where Amor does the majority of her training, and where she keeps her two horses Devon and Nahar.

Image Credit: Instagram/ichiarambaeq 

“Normally, if I’m not competing on a weekend, I ride from Friday to Sunday in Normandy,” Amor said, who admits she’s rarely in Paris on weekends. “The competitions I do will increase in difficulty because there’s different levels and different heights I will be competing, but training depends on … how my horses are doing and what we need to work on.”

She has participated in a variety of championships and equestrian competitions across the globe. This year alone, Amor competed in France, Germany Belgium, and the Netherlands. Earlier this year, she competed in the Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, which lasted four weeks. Because this competition started in February, Amor had to fly out every Thursday night to arrive around 1 a.m. in Spain. Her day began at 7 a.m. where she rode for the entire weekend. She flew back to Paris Sunday night, where she arrived at 6 a.m. and went directly to a 9 a.m. class.

“Equestrian is her life, and you can see that in everything,” said her best friend Nebi Dzhabrailova, who practiced the sport with her for a year. “Chiara is a very dedicated professional rider … Even when it's hard for her with school life balance, one thing that stays the same is equestrian.”

Image Credit: Instagram/ichiarambaeq

From 2010 to 2015, Amor went back and forth from the Philippines to Australia training and attending school. After graduating from high school in 2015, Amor wanted leave Australia and move to Europe and train full-time. However, her parents encouraged her to continue higher education at a university (‘uni’ as she calls it throughout the interview) and train simultaneously.

 “My parents are obviously the ones supporting me completely throughout this process,” she said. “They said we’re happy to give you whatever amount of money you need, but if you want to ride, you have to go to uni still.”

While Amor admits it’s a struggle, she realized after being in uni, that the time away from riding was essential for personal growth and fostering other relationships, she said.

“It’s like my riding is a break from uni and uni is a break from my riding,” she said. “That’s the best way I can describe it, because I need that balance between the two. I can’t do just uni and I can’t do just riding, like that’ll drive me insane. I like being all over the place; that helps keep me motivated and on my toes.”

Image Credit: Instagram/ichiarambaeq

Amor’s current trainer, Australian Olympian Amy Graham, has been working with her since she arrived to France in summer 2016. Graham described Amor as an athlete who "is generally focused and disciplined, sympathetic to her horses and the team supporting her. She strives for bigger goals and balances her studies well." 

Graham was a reserve Olympian on the equestrian team for Australia in 2012 and competed in the World Equestrian Games (WEG). Graham is one of two trainers that Amor is working with in preparation for the Olympic trails in August/September 2019 and other vital competitions. Amor’s other trainer is Reed Kessler, who was the youngest person to qualify in the sport for the 2012 Olympic games.

“Reed, I go over to her place for clinics. Clinics really help me figure out something different. I learn different things that I’ve never noticed about my riding,” Amor said. “Amy teaches me how to be a solid rider and to ride correctly whereas Reed, perfects it. She’s all about precision, so that for me is important because I get the training and then I get the perfection part of it.”

Image Credit: Instagram/ichiarambaeq

Though Amor continues to excel rapidly in the sport, making the 2020 Philippine Equestrian Olympic team will be difficult due to the structure and process for how teams are chosen in her region, she said. In riding, the world is broken into seven region/groups, and Amor is in ‘Group G’ which includes southeast Asia and Oceania.

“Within those regions, only two teams of three per region and two individuals (per region) can qualify,” she said. “That’s why it’s extremely difficult to qualify because they have very limited space in equestrian. That’s why I couldn’t go to the youth Olympics because my score was good, but it wasn’t as high as someone from New Zealand.”

In addition to New Zealand, Australia is also very strong in the sport, which makes qualifying in ‘Group G’ a challenge that few from Amor’s country has been able to achieve.

Image Credit: Instagram/ ichiarambaeq

“I think it’s admirable and impressive that Chiara is training for the 2020 Olympics,” said Amor’s partner Jasmine Paul, who graduated from AUP in May. “She has several steps in short-term and long-term goals to achieve one of the most honorable athletic achievements in existence, and she has been doing a great job working toward it as a young and successful equestrian.”

Amor, who is taking a much needed break to visit family, will return to training in mid-July, but recently learned that she qualified to compete in the upcoming 18th Asian Games in August in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“I was excited but also nervous,” she said, on receiving the news. “It’s a whole new ball game, a whole different level in the sport. I’m so honoured to represent my country and I’m hoping to do them proud.”

-Verónica Ayala contributed to this story