Turkmen President injured winning bizarre horse race

May 6, 2013



Throughout history, powerful rulers and their horses have had odd relationships. After all, Roman Emperor Caligula named his horse a consul. More recently, the horse of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov almost killed him.

Wearing traditional national Turkmen dress, the authoritarian leader was thrown from his horse and briefly knocked unconscious late last month in a race held in Turkmenistan.

President Berdymukhamedov appeared to win the race cleanly before the front legs of his mount gave way just as he crossed the finish line. After aides rushed to his side, the 55-year-old leader eventually regained consciousness and briefly appeared to reassure the crowd.

The media is tightly controlled in the nation of 5.5 million, and while it was widely reported he won the 1,000 meter race against five rivals, only recently have videos of the event leaked onto the internet.

The video shows both Berdymukhamedov’s headlong dive and his aides rushing to his side. His horse appears oddly unscathed.

Occasionally, world leaders do die in horse riding accidents. Such was the fate of Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister, Don Senanayake, who died in 1952 riding on Colombo's most famous public park, the Galle Face Green, in what was then Ceylon.

The authoritarian ruler of the gas-rich state of Turkmenistan entered in the event to promote the traditional Akhal-Teke breed of horse for which Turkmenistan is famous.

While horse meat is consumed across Central Asia from Bashkortostan to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan is an exception. Instead, the Akhal-Teke has become an instrument of Turkmen softpower, and the breed has been given as an official gift to various states, including France, where we can hope it avoided the fate of a camel recently given to France from Mali.

Perhaps taking a note from the political playbook of Russian President Vladmir Putin, Berdymukhamedov is an avid sports fan whose various media appearances have seen him operating jet planes, driving race cars, practicing martial arts, and shooting assault rifles.

Last year, he asked government ministries to form ice hockey teams. Group exercise and fitness by government employees in a manner reminiscent of the Soviet era also has been heartily encouraged.

With the prize of 11 million dollars, the Day of the Turkmen Racehorse would make the event the world's richest horse race (just surpassing the more conventional Dubai World Cup, a throughbred horse race for a 10 million dollar prize). With the race lasting just 21.2 seconds, the high purse which would make Berdymukhamedov one of the world's highest paid athletes on a dollars-per-second basis.

By Joseph Hammond
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

2 comments:

  1. Horserace can also teach the game by offering interactive handicapping lessons. Rather than fret over a steep learning curve, racing needs to teach handicapping skills using all the incredible tools of the internet.

    ReplyDelete

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