Wellington based Lily Zilo has been selected to represent her native country Hong Kong at the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, December 1-5, 2006. She will be riding either Windsor's Mira, a 12-year old Dutch warmblood mare, or Windsor's Matinee, a 12-year old Dutch warmblood gelding, at the Games.
Lily Zilo will be the first full-blooded Chinese on the Hong Kong team, as previously foreigners born in Hong Kong have represented the country. Her two other team mates are Jackie Siu, who is training with Anky van Grunsven in The Netherlands, and the U.K. based Aram Gregory, who was born and raised in Hong Kong. Gregory will be riding his trainer Jane Bredin's Grand Prix horse Lucky Star, a Danish warmblood by Lucky Light.
In order to get selected for the 2006 Asian Games, Zilo had to send in all the scores she achieved competing in the United States during the 2005-2006 show season. "The Hong Kong Sports Federation and Hong Kong Olympic Committee had to approve of my selection," Zilo said.
Lily had to go through a difficult administrative mill to be able to properly prepare herself for the Games. The competition classes at the Asian Games will be the Young Riders test. Being an adult, Zilo is not officially allowed to ride these Young Rider test in the United States and had to request for a "precedential modification" from the U.S.E.F.
"I had to send a letter to Hong Kong Equestrian Federation and ask for this modification which will allow me to practice the test at shows. It will help me because I will ride the tests in front of the judges," Zilo stated. Her coach Linda Smith, has also been extremely helpful in preparing Lily for the Games. Smith organized a faux-show in which Zilo was able to ride in front of two O-judges, helping her to meet the requirements needed to qualify. Zilo has been in full training with Linda Smith for three years and will accompany her to the Asian Games.
Photo copyrighted: Alicia Frese
Grueling Travel Plan To and From Qatar
Zilo's biggest concern about going to the Asian Games will be the grueling traveling schedule the horse has to go through with strict quarantine procedures. "I worry about bringing the horse back. It will be more exhausting than the competition itself," Zilo said. Insured with DressageDaily's Markel Equine Agent, Mary Phelps, additional coverage was added to cover extended territorial limits, required for all insured horses in the US when traveling outside the country.
Zilo's Groom Gabriel Meyer, who has already traveled to many European dressage competitions as an international groom for several Olympic riders, will be the "equine flight attendant" of Lily's horse and won't leave the horse's side during the journey.
The travel plan includes shipping from Miami to Amsterdam where horse and groom will stay overnight. Lazcar International Horse Transportation will be handling the first leg of the trip. Based out of Miami, Lazcar has a direct flight to Amsterdam, which means the horse will only be traveling for about eight hours. Then it goes from Amsterdam to Doha (Qatar) where the Games are held. For the return trip, the horse will be shipped back to Amsterdam to be completely isolated and trucked to Frankfurt, Germany, where he will be shipped alone in one container to New York, before heading back down to Florida.
Photo copyrighted: Alicia Frese
Zealous Zilo Aims for Team Medal
Zilo is not essentially driven to become a champion and only started riding when she was 37. Her main focus has always been becoming a skilled dressage rider. "I just want to learn how to ride, but you need your credentials and medals to get selected on a team," the level-headed Zilo said. Aboard Windsor's Mira, Zilo earned her USDF bronze and silver medal in three months time.
Even though Zilo is an adult amateur competing at Prix St Georges level, she does show the motivation and drive of a professional and will aim for the highest at the Asian Games.
"We have a good chance at winning a team medal. We all have been competing aggressively. Jackie Siu is allowed to compete at young riders level in the British system," Zilo said. She hopes that the team will produce an average score of 65% but they are aspiring 68%, which would be good for a team medal.
Fourteen dressage teams will be competing at the 15th Asian Games in Doha. Fifty riders have been selected with team representation from Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, etc.
The Asian Games are highly important for the globalization of dressage and the equestrian sport in general. "It will broaden the recognition of the sport," Zilo stated. "A whole new gateway will be opening, especially because the Olympics are held in Hong Kong in two years."
By Astrid Appels/Eurodressage