Pakistani equestrian Usman Khan has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this July in the sport of eventing. His horse, however, which he has named ‘Azad Kashmir’ (Free Kashmir) shares his name with a disputed territory of Kashmir that is in Pakistan’s control, yet a parliamentary resolution claims belongs to India. Officials in New Delhi have accused Khan of making a political statement, and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), led by president Narinder Batra, may lodge a formal complaint to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as they find the name “objectionable.”
Batra said they are studying the issue and “we will analyse the matter, as it is a politically-sensitive issue for India.”
Khan, 38, has been reported as calling the controversy “a trivial issue, really,” and insists that the horse was not named in response to the lockdown in Indian Kashmir, but rather because all the horses in his stable are named after beautiful areas of northern Pakistan. Azad Kashmir, a 13-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred, was previously named Here to Stay, but Khan had paid the FEI’s $1,000 (US) name change fee. He has been funding his own eventing career to the tune of $2m (US), travelling across Australia to compete in FEI events. He paid roughly $73,000 (US) for his Olympic horse,
Khan has been riding since the age of seven and currently resides in Melbourne, AUS. An IT consultant, he qualified twice for the Asian Games in 2014 and 2018, and aboard Azad Kashmir had a banner 2019 season, winning the CCI3*-L at Goulburn NSW and placing top-five in five other CCI2*, 3* and 4* events. By finishing in the top two of the individual FEI Olympic Rankings for Group F (Africa and Middle East), Khan would become the first Pakistani equestrian to qualify for the Olympics.