Princess Haya: Equestrian’s Olympic savior moving on

One of very few women to occupy such a prominent position within the Olympic movement, Haya is the subject of a warm, impromptu tribute from Pearson.

“She’s brought inclusion from many countries that thought equestrianism was kind of elitist,” says the 10-time Paralympic champion.

“She’s kept us in the Olympics by making sure London was such a success, and she’s modernized it. We’re not riders, we’re athletes.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya of Jordan carried her country’s flag at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, where she competed as a showjumper at the age of 26.

Four years later she married Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, an equestrian endurance racing enthusiast.

By 2006, he had become the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and she had been elected to lead the FEI.

In a statement turning down the chance to stand for a third term, the mother-of-two listed first her family and then humanitarian work, in Gaza, as her new priorities.

“I felt the president should only have an eight-year term and I still feel that is important,” says Haya, who had at one time announced her intent to seek a third term — a move some considered “undemocratic” despite a majority of national federations backing the necessary rule changes.

“As president, you have to do a 12-hour day, it’s a full-time job, and it’s only really possible to do that for eight years until you do run out of ideas,” she says.

“The sport is bigger than any international federation ever will be. Sometimes, you get the feeling the world revolves around you. I’ve always known that if we stop, the sport never will. It’s worth knowing that.”

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