Gold-Medal Friendships for Ava Wong at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final

Ava Wong (centre, wearing a white hat) of Calgary, AB, represented Canada at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final, held April 17-21, 2019, in Tashkent, UZB. In addition to a team gold medal, Ava brought home everlasting friendships with athletes from around the world.
Photo Credit: Reena Kaloti

“We all had an instant connection and were inseparable from day one,” said Ava of the 18 Children’s athletes competing in the Final. “We hung out together and supported each other throughout the whole competition. It was great answering all of their questions about Canada and learning about their countries, as well. We played the game ‘Would you Rather’ and one of the questions was, ‘Would you rather win this competition and not have any of the friendships you made here, or would you rather come last and keep the friendships you made?’ Every single athlete immediately chose our friendships!”

The world’s rising stars were able to bond while taking in the beautiful sights of Tashkent, including Alisher Navoi National Park, Tashkent Tower, and Minor Mosque.

Gold-Medal Friendships for Ava Wong at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final

Children’s Final athletes at the Minor Mosque, one of the stops on their four-hour tour of Tashkent’s historical and religious sites.
Photo Credit: Reena Kaloti

“Tashkent was breathtakingly beautiful and the people there were so kind and welcoming,” commented Ava. “They always went out of their way to help us and made sure that our experience was nothing less than amazing.”

On the sightseeing tour and throughout the rest of the week, Ava also had the chance to practice the Spanish she’s currently learning in school. Speaking with representatives from Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, and Honduras provided an amazing opportunity for Ava to perfect her accent and improve her listening skills. Ava also learned words in Russian and Afrikaans, and her singing skills were greatly improved by the daily karaoke the athletes sang on the bus to and from the show grounds.

In the ring, Ava was also able to pick up several lessons by watching her fellow competitors. “All of the athletes were very talented and had different riding styles and techniques. We learned so much just from watching each other’s rounds!”

The Children’s Final upped the pressure by challenging the young athletes to ride unfamiliar horses provided by the host country. Ava drew Crystal, a 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion owned by Abdurakhmon Abdullaev. Outfitted with SSG Gloves and an Ogilvy saddle pad, the pair shone over three rounds of competition and Ava was able to teach a trick or two to her new friends herself.

Gold-Medal Friendships for Ava Wong at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final

In addition to stiff competition, the Children’s Final upped the ante by providing horses from the host country to each rider. In her first time competing on a borrowed horse, Ava excelled with Crystal.
Photo Credit: FEI/Richard Juilliart

“I was very happy and proud of my performance,” said Ava. “Crystal had a huge stride and was super fun to ride. I had never competed on a drawn horse before, but my trainer, Rodney Tulloch, had me well prepared before the competition.”

Ava and Crystal’s top-10 performances in the speed round on April 19 and the jump-off competition the next day helped Team YMCA ultimately secure the team gold medal. Team members Ava, Mick Haunhorst (GER), Camila Saad Vega (MEX), and Miryokub Ismoilov (UZB) executed double-clear rounds over both days to finish on an unbeatable score of zero, followed by Team We Don’t Understand English in the silver medal position on a final score of four faults, and Team Fifty-Fifty with a score of 20 for bronze.

Gold-Medal Friendships for Ava Wong at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final

The gold-medal winning Team YMCA was the only team whose members each executed double-clear rounds over two days of competition.
L to R: Mick Haunhorst, Ava, Camila Saad Vega, Miryokub Ismoilov
Photo Credit: Reena Kaloti

Ava rounded out her Children’s Final experience with a respectable 12th place in the Individual Competition on April 21. Now back on Canadian soil, she is focusing on her goals for the 2019 season, primarily progressing to the 1.40m division and returning to the North American Youth Championships with her 13-year-old Westphalian gelding, Concelo (Con Cento x Cantus). But while her equestrian career is pushing forward, a part of Ava’s heart remains in Uzbekistan.

“It is so awesome to have best friends from all over the world. The hardest part about coming back to Canada was leaving all of the new friends I had made,” remarked Ava. “We were all very sad and hope to see each other again one day. We still text with each other daily on our WhatsApp group chat. We are thinking of having our reunion at Spruce Meadows in the future!”

Ava concluded, “I am so fortunate to live in Canada. I have had so many great opportunities and was very honoured to represent my country in the Final. I would like to say a huge thank you to Rodney. His dedication to excellence and to my riding has helped me to achieve so many amazing goals. I would also like to thank my family for all of their time, love, and support in helping to make my dreams a reality.”

Gold-Medal Friendships for Ava Wong at the 2019 FEI Jumping Children’s Classics Final

Ava (left) was supported on the ground by her coach, Rodney Tulloch (right), and her mother, Reena Kaloti.
Photo Credit: Reena Kaloti 

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