Malaysian sultan strikes equestrian gold in SEA Games

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysian sultan made more history in the Southeast Asian Games by winning the equestrian endurance race on Sunday.

Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the first sultan to compete in the biennial games, galloped to victory after nearly six hours in the 80-kilometer race.

Sultan Mizan, 55, ruler of northeast Terengganu state, led home teammates in second and third, but the third-place finisher couldn't take the bronze because rules prohibit teams from sweeping the podium. Regardless, Malaysia also won the team gold from Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, and Brunei.

The sultan, ranked fourth in the world in endurance racing, is not the only royal among 4,000 athletes at the games.

Thailand Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana and her horse, Prince Charming, are competing in equestrian dressage and jumping events. The 30-year-old princess, daughter of King Vajiralongkorn and granddaughter of the late King Bhumibol, previously competed in the games in 2005, in the Thai badminton team that won a gold medal.

Another competing royal is footballer Faiq Bolkiah, the 19-year-old son of Brunei Prince Jefri Bolkiah and nephew of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Faiq, a midfielder for the reserve team of English Premier League club Leicester, made his debut at the 2015 Games in Singapore and will helm the Brunei team for a second time.

Apart from Sultan Mizan, host Malaysia is also making history with Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin becoming the first Southeast Asian minister to compete. The 41-year-old Khairy, juggling his duties as chair of the games organizing committee, will be part of a seven-member equestrian polo team.

Shortly after he was selected for the polo squad, Khairy's competence was challenged by Prince Ismail Idris, the crown prince of southern Johor state who is himself a skilled polo player. The prince challenged Khairy to a match to determine who is more qualified to represent the country. It was brushed off by Khairy, and the national polo team defended the minister's competitive experience, fitness, and discipline.

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