Connect with us

Living

Senegal’s savannah jockey dreams of international glory

Published

on

The Wider Image: Meet the teenage Senegalese jockey racing to fame

NIAGA, Senegal – A head shorter than his peers, Fallou Diop quickly vanishes into the crowd of jockeys preparing for early morning drills in the western Senegalese village of Niaga.

When the racing begins, however, his crouched silhouette is far ahead of the field, aided by an effortless riding style.

“When I start riding I get a bit stressed, but after a moment, it’s over,” Diop says. “At the time of the race, I’m only thinking of victory.”

Diop is one of Senegal’s most promising jockeys, having won the country’s top racing prize when he was just 17. He hopes to begin racing in France next year, realizing a dream coveted by some of Senegal’s foremost riders.

Horses are an integral part of life in Senegal. Horse-drawn buggies are ubiquitous across the country, and over the past 50 years competitive racing has developed into a national pastime.

“It’s a passion in my family,” Diop said. “Since my grandfather we’ve supported horses, then my father after him.”

In villages like Niaga, where Diop lives, horse feed and supply shops line the main roads, and fields are dotted with men on horseback.

Adorned with colourful ceramic tiles on a busy back street, the house Diop shares with 12 family members is getting a new roof thanks to the money from his winnings.

Depending on the number of horses in a race, Diop can earn up to $600 dollars per victory. Average monthly wages in Senegal were estimated at around $180 at the end of 2019.

Diop’s success is a source of pride for his father, who spent much of his life driving a horse and buggy around Niaga. His older brother, who also hoped to be a jockey before a growth spurt got in the way, boasts of Diop’s achievements to visitors.

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, holds onto a young mare called Raissa Betty, whom he is currently training to compete with in the future, as they cross a road after a hack along Lac Rose, also known as Lake Retba, in Niaga, Rufisque region, Senegal, January 27, 2021.

Reuters

The Wider Image: Meet the teenage Senegalese jockey racing to fame

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, prays at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Rufisque region, Senegal, January 27, 2021.

Reuters

The Wider Image: Meet the teenage Senegalese jockey racing to fame

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, carries hay to be fed to the horses at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Rufisque region, Senegal, January 27, 2021.

Reuters

The Wider Image: Meet the teenage Senegalese jockey racing to fame

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, adjusts another jockey’s saddle as he rides a horse during a training session on a field in Sangalkam, Senegal, January 28, 2021.

Reuters

The Wider Image: Meet the teenage Senegalese jockey racing to fame

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, rides his horse during a training session on a field in Sangalkam, Senegal, January 28, 2021.

Reuters

Up Next

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

VILNIUS – Lithuania’s national opera and ballet theater has turned…


“It’s the elders who taught us everything since we were young, and that’s how I became passionate about horses,” Diop said.

Diop, who has dropped formal schooling, was 12 when he left a tailoring apprenticeship to pursue racing. According to his father, he was so determined that he walked 10 miles to enroll in the nearest training program.

Today, Diop and other jockeys in Niaga are taught by Adama Bao, whose family has maintained a stud farm near the salty shores of Senegal’s Lac Rose for three generations.

“[Diop] is very gifted,” Bao said. “He could compete up to 50 years with his weight and size.”

Bao plans to send Diop to France for three months in early 2022 to race for a French-Senegalese breeder. He would have travelled last year, Bao said, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Diop’s skills were put to the test at the racetrack in Thiès, Senegal’s third largest city.

Dressed in vibrant yellow and blue, Diop calmly mounted his steed and led it towards the track.

He went on to finish first in three of his five races that day, taking home nearly $1,000 in winnings.

“I want to be the best jockey in a country other than mine,” he said. “In Morocco or France, anywhere there is horse racing.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Living

Tourism groups in Thailand petition to reopen country to international travelers

Published

on

By

Tourism groups in Thailand petition to reopen country to international travelers

Thailand’s tourism sector wants to reopen the country to visitors this summer. 

On Tuesday, tourism groups in Thailand launched the #OpenThailandSafely campaign, asking the country to allow travelers with proof of a COVID-19 vaccine into the country without quarantine requirements by July 1. 

“As Thailand is starting to vaccinate its most vulnerable and its healthcare workers, we believe that now is the time to announce a firm and irreversible date to reopen its borders,” a petition to the Thai government says. “This will give confidence to international travelers and encourage them to book a trip to Thailand.”

“Thai tourism operators, especially those reliant on international travel, would then be able to start business planning, accept forward bookings, start to rehire staff, and conduct training programs,” the petition adds. “Without a firm commitment to reopening made now, Thailand may lose all of 2021 as travelers will make plans for alternative destinations.”

The petition – which is seeking 100,000 signatures to be sent to the Thai Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism and Sports and the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand – has 2,268 supporters as of Tuesday night.

According to a letter published with the campaign, Thailand tourism and related industries have been “decimated” by the closure of international travel into the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The financial, social, physical and psychological health of Thai people has been adversely affected,” the letter said. “The disruption of travel has not just impacted tourism, but also torn families apart and greatly reduced international trade.”

“The current situation is unsustainable,” the letter added.

Campaign organizers believe that by July 1, vaccines will be widely available “in many source markets,” according to the letter. 

Organizers also believe that if the government makes a commitment now to opening its borders for travelers by July 1, that will give people enough time to plan and book their travel, it will give tourism companies enough time to prepare to restart operations and it will give the Thai government enough time to vaccinated front line health care workers and vulnerable citizens.

“It will take Thailand at least a year, and maybe a lot longer, to return to the large numbers of international visitors that it had before the Covid-19 crisis,” the letter said.

In the letter, campaign organizers also suggested several potential “safeguards” that international travelers could be asked to follow in order to visit the country, including “showing officially recognized proof of a Covid-19 vaccination from their home country, purchasing health insurance, showing proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure, and so on,” the letter said.

“The 1 July reopening would be a strategic opportunity for Thailand to show a leadership role among Asian countries and prepare the way for a solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022,” the letter added.

Continue Reading

Living

US halts plasma study to treat mild COVID-19, citing ‘unlikely benefit’

Published

on

By

US halts plasma study to treat mild COVID-19, citing ‘unlikely benefit’

The National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday it stopped a clinical trial testing convalescent plasma in mild to moderate COVID-19 patients after an independent board found no difference in hospitalizations, deaths or in preventing progression to severe illness.

An independent data and safety monitoring board convened on Feb. 25 to assess trial data, and concluded that while the plasma “caused no harm, it was unlikely to benefit this group of patients,” per a news release. The board recommended to stop enrolling new patients in the study, and this was done “immediately,” according to the release.

“The recent data analysis from the study indicated no significant difference in the proportion of participants who experienced any one of these outcomes [hospitalization, additional care or death within two weeks],” reads the release. “Even if enrollment continued, this trial was highly unlikely to demonstrate that COVID-19 convalescent plasma prevents progression from mild to severe illness in at-risk emergency department non-hospitalized participants.”

The study launched in August 2020, and aimed to reach 900 patients across 47 hospital emergency departments (EDs) in the US, but only enrolled 511 patients. These patients presented to the ED with mild to moderate COVID-19 and had at least one underlying condition that would heighten the risk for a severe course of COVID-19 disease, like heart disease or obesity. The patients had symptoms for several days to a week, but weren’t sick enough to require hospitalization.

The concept behind the treatment is that antibodies in the plasma from recovered patients could be infused into ill patients in a bid to improve conditions. Plasma was also used during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in 2003, and the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, the NIH says.

Trial participants received one unit of plasma or a placebo, and researchers studied whether patients went on to require hospital care, sought additional care or died within 15 days of starting the trial. 

The NIH noted over 100,000 people in the US have already been treated with plasma since the beginning of the pandemic, and the American Red Cross is actively seeking plasma donations. Some doctors voiced some cautious optimism over the treatment last spring, though they had uncertainties, specifically whether patients’ improved conditions were due to plasma or another factor.

Continue Reading

Living

New poll shows 50% drop in fear of dying from COVID-19

Published

on

By

New poll shows 50% drop in fear of dying from COVID-19

Americans are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

The national Harris Poll conducted over the weekend found a significant uptick in positive sentiment about the pandemic — and a drop in fears of the virus.

“The last year has certainly been difficult for many Americans and their families, but in the face of all the hardships and social distancing efforts, many have remained optimistic and resilient when it comes to their mental health,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said in a statement.

More than half, or 52 percent, of the 2,000 adults surveyed said they are not afraid of dying as a result of catching COVID-19, the highest mark since July 2020.

For most of the year, the number of people who said they were frightened of being killed by the virus outnumbered the alternative.

More than 516,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, but both deaths and cases have recently been on the decline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 percent of the adult population is now vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The poll found a 15 percent increase in how many Americans approve of how the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed.

About 66 percent gave the nation’s inoculation efforts the thumbs up, compared to 51 percent just one month ago.

The findings came as President Biden on Tuesday said the US will have enough vaccines for every US adult by the end of May, two months earlier than previously anticipated.

Despite the stepped-up pace of vaccine production, the massive effort to get every American jabbed could extend well into the summer, officials said.

Biden said he hoped that the nation would be back to normal sometime before “this time next year.”

Still, when asked if they currently think there is light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, nearly 6 in 10 respondents said yes, according to the poll.

They were also more optimistic about the effects of the pandemic, with 66 percent overall saying their mental health has been affected in a positive way.

About 30 percent of those respondents said they’ve found more things to be grateful for during the crisis; 28 percent said they’ve taken more “me time” to do things for themselves; and 25 percent said they’ve been praying more.

“While Americans remain vigilant over the pandemic,” Gerzema said, “it is an encouraging sign to see greater acceptance of the vaccine, a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and a declining sentiment in fear of dying from the virus.”

Continue Reading

Trending