Asian Games: No royal treatment for Thai princess

Asian Games: No royal treatment for Thai princess

INCHEON, South Korea - The Thai princess taking part in the Asian Games insisted she's treated just like any other athlete after she made her debut in the dressage competition on Saturday.

Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, whose horse is named Prince Charming, is the granddaughter of Thailand's king and was once listed among Forbes' "Top 20 hottest royals".

But she said she was getting no special treatment at the Asian Games, where she is staying in the athletes' village just like thousands of her co-competitors.

"They treat me like friends, a normal rider," Sirivannavari told AFP at the stables of Incheon's Dream Park equestrian centre, after her performance on Saturday.

"If they treat me as a princess I would not be here, I'd be in another stable, with beautiful decorations. Everybody has the same - the one thing they give me is respect." The down-to-earth royal arrived back at her high-rise accommodation late on Friday after the Games' opening ceremony - poor preparation for a competition.

But Srivannavari, who also competed in badminton at the 2006 Asian Games, said a blast of pop star Rihanna helped her gear up for a day in the saddle.

"For me it was no problem, it's like: wake up, some vitamin C, a lot of water and feel fresh, good music - I listened to Rihanna this morning," she said.

The 27-year-old is the latest in a line of royals to compete in top-level equestrianism, including Britain's Zara Phillips, a 2012 Olympics silver-medallist.

Sirivannavari finished well down the field in Saturday's individual dressage, which was dominated by South Korean and Japanese riders.

But she said she was pleased with her performance after just two months working with Prince Charming.

"Overall big picture, I'm very happy that he's very relaxed but I know that he wants to work too much sometimes, so I need to hold him back," she said.

And she is not ruling out following Phillips' example by appearing at the Olympics.

"Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow. I want to go little by little, work hard today, work hard tomorrow and then if God wants me to go to the Olympics, why not?" she said.

Away from the sporting domain, the energetic Sirivannavari is a keen fashion designer and has had two shows at Paris Fashion Week.

Her second Paris outing, inspired by 1970s and 80s hard rock, featured models poured into stretch lame cropped biker jackets and jeans, and studded biker boots.

The French connection goes beyond Sirivannavari's fashion shows, and her habit of switching between French and English in conversation.

The whole Thai dressage team prepared for the Games in France under veteran trainer Alain Francois, who says his royal protege has made great progress on her new horse.

"The horse is exceptional and the princess has a huge wish to go on so we just need time to improve things," he said.

And what about the Olympics, and a repeat of Phillips' success?

"I hope so. That is the point of every life, to go to the Olympics. But it is very difficult, the places are very few," Francois said.

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