Among the athletes that represented Hong Kong at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, there was only one who qualified in equestrian sports: Thomas Heffernan Ho represented the city in eventing, a competition that brings together dressage, show jumping and cross-country—the ultimate test of endurance and discipline. Ho, a full-time athlete, competed in Tokyo with his horse Tayberry, who at 20 was the oldest event horse at the Games.
Ho, now 31, had Olympic dreams ever since the Beijing 2008 equestrian sports were staged in Hong Kong. Although he did not end up picking up a medal, he holds the unique and historic honour of being the first ever equestrian to qualify for Hong Kong at the Olympics. No doubt he will have inspired dozens of young riders to follow in his footsteps and build upon the foundations he has set.
Here, he tells Tatler about his life and journey to the Olympics.
See also: 6 Horse Riding Schools In Hong Kong
How did you get into horse riding?
I had always wanted to be a jockey from a young age. I was introduced to horses at Pokfulam Riding school when I accompanied my brother, Daniel Heffernan Ho, to his lessons. I loved watching the horses go round and stroking them and feeding them carrots. When I was seven, my parents encouraged me to ride. In the beginning, I was scared of the horses but I grew in confidence.
Describe your journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Throughout primary school, I rode once a week and when I started secondary school, I rode every day after school. I started competing in local competitions when I was ten. When I went to university in Switzerland, I was only able to ride at the weekend.
My professional journey has been a fairly short one: I have only been representing Hong Kong for eight years, but I have represented Hong Kong at an Asian Games, the China National Games, Asian Championship and this year's Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Along the way, I have won a team bronze medal and team silver medal.
In going to these games I have always believed in my partnership with my horse which I truly believe is the most important thing to have. Also I am a very determined person and I hate being told that I can not achieve something so it is in my nature to keep pushing myself to do better every time I ride my horse.