India’s Shruti Vora, who created history earlier this month by becoming the first rider from the country to win a three-star Grand Prix dressage, staked her claim for a slot in the Paris Olympics by winning her second Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) score at the Brno Grand Prix in Czech Republic on Saturday.

Astride her 12-year-old gelding Magnanimous, Vora was in stellar form throughout her nine-minute routine, and even led the seven-rider competition before being overtaken by Poland’s Katarzyna Milczarek (69.304 points).(PTI)

“This is unbelievable. In fact, no word in English language can do justice to my feelings right now. Totally unglaublich (German for unbelievable)!” an ecstatic Vora told HT from Brno.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

Astride her 12-year-old gelding Magnanimous, Vora was in stellar form throughout her nine-minute routine, and even led the seven-rider competition before being overtaken by Poland’s Katarzyna Milczarek (69.304 points). Germany’s Matthias Bouten completed the top three with 67.022 points.

One other Indian is in the fray for the Paris dressage slot — Anush Agarwalla, who also has the requisite MERs, and finished 20th in the Kronberg GP on June 21 with a score of 67.022 points, astride Sir Caramello Old. Agarwalla, 25, from Kolkata, got three MERs between October-December 2023, and the one in Kronberg was his only MER this year.

“I agree that Anush got his MERs within the qualifying window but he managed only one MER this year, which brings his current form into question. This year, Anush has been unable to get the scores while three of his four MERs prove little of his form or his horse’s fitness. No other country selects people based on past performances. My scores are better and more recent and I am confident of boarding the flight to Paris,” Vora said after Saturday’s stunning display.

To be sure, Vora has been on a sizzling run of late, and becoming the only Indian to win a GP-3 level event on June 7 in Slovenia underscored that. In the seven events she has participated in this year, Vora has secured a top-three finish in five of them.

“A minimum 67% must be attributed twice to the Athlete/Horse combination by both a L4 judge and as an average from all judges in the competition, and the score must be achieved in a Grand Prix test at two different CDI3*/CDI4*/CDI5*/CDI-W/CDIO events. Athletes and Horses must obtain the MER at events which take place from 1 January 2023 until the MER deadline of 24 June, 2024 included,” FEI’s selection criterion states.

According to the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI’s) selection criterion, “In case of more than one eligible athlete, the athlete with the highest average in Grand Prix out of the best four events in the past one year shall be chosen to participate.”

EFI secretary-general Colonel Jaiveer Singh and Agarwalla declined to comment on the matter. The deadline to send the rider’s name to FEI ends on June 25.

After her win in Slovenia, Vora competed in Achleiten GP in Austria on June 14 where she finished 11th (65.652 points), making the Czech event a make-or-break one for her. “It was the all-important event as far as the Olympics go but I didn’t feel the pressure. Once I entered the arena, my strategy was to execute my training to perfection,” she said.

Coming off a two-year hiatus, Vora, 53, moved to Europe in May and set her base in the village of Timming in Germany’s Billerbeck municipality. She trains in the stables of London Olympics silver medallist Helen Langehanenberg with her long-time coach Jitendarjit Singh Ahluwalia, a 1986 Asiad bronze medallist in team dressage.

“The credit for my success goes to my coach Major Ahluwalia and Magnanimous. I have been around Magnanimous since he was four months old but it was Major Ahluwalia who always believed in him. He told me that I was riding an Olympic-class horse, and Magnanimous proved him right. At one stage, my scores read 73% but then I made a couple of mistakes due to which the points went down,” Vora said.

“Even in my previous events, the mistakes had come from me and not from the horse. So, I am lucky to ride him. I have about a month to practice with him and we will certainly improve our tuning together,” Vora added.

For now, Vora and Magnanimous will take a week-long break before resuming their training. “I am extremely grateful to him (Magnanimous) because he has been training non-stop for the past six weeks. He has earned the break,” she said.