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Royal visit crowns jump finale

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A young rider competes during the first day of the 2011 Norodom Sihanouk du Cambodge Horse Jumping Championships at the Cambodian Country Club on January 31. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein will visit Cambodia in her capacity as the President of the International Equestrian Federation to preside over the conclusion of the 2011 Norodom Sihanouk du Cambodge Show Jumping Championship at the Cambodian Country Club on Sunday.

The Princess, who represented Jordan in show jumping at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is a junior wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and also the ruler of Dubai.

The famous Al Maktoum colours are prominent in English horse racing and the family fully supports the richest horse racing festival, the Dubai World Cup, at the Nada Al Sheeba race course every year.

As the daughter of Jordan’s King Hussein and Queen Alia, Princess Haya rode horses from a very young age and quickly gained notoriety in equestrian sport.

At the age of 13, she became the first female from Jordan to compete in an international show jumping competition. In 1992, she won a bronze medal at the Pan Arab Equestrian meet.

A major turning point for her equestrian pursuits came in 1994, when King Hussein formed Team Harmony - a string of international show jumping horses - and named his 20-year-old daughter as Athletic Director to run its affairs. In the next five years, Team Harmony collected victories in as many as 36 international classes, eight national Grands Prix, eight international Grands Prix, and a Volvo World Qualifier.

Princess Haya rode a mare from Team Harmony called Lucilla II at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was flag bearer for the Jordanian team during the opening ceremony. She became the first Arab women to qualify and compete in the World Equestrian Games at Jerez in Spain the same year.

Five years later she took part in the World Endurance Championships in Dubai and, between 1995 and 2002, competed at an average of 39 international meets a year from training bases throughout Europe.

On the way to the apex of world acclaim, she became the first Jordanian athlete to turn professional, signing a contract with Italian designer Loro Piana.

She moved to Dubai in 2004 following her marriage, and two years later became the first Arab to assume the office of the President of the International Equestrian Federation.

She also became a member of the International Olympic Committee and was even named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

On Sunday, the third and final day of the seventh edition of Cambodia’s annual show jumping event will find champions in four categories. With notable performers from the last two weeks of intense competition going for the ribbons an exciting fare is well on the cards.

Local riders Hoy Sophirath and Long Sopheaktra currently hold sway in the Grand Prix division. The second round last Sunday also saw Goosens Chenda take the lead in Gallop 4/5, while Alicia Khiem came out trumps in Gallop 2/3. Lili Duverge emerged winner in the Gallop 1 category.

A US$5 entrance fee will allow spectators access to all the Cambodian Country Club facilities from morning until evening Sunday, and each ticket grants admission to a lucky draw that offers a one-year membership of the club as the grand prize.

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