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2 May, 2013 10:30

Presidential face-plant: Turkmen leader thrown over after winning horse race (VIDEO)

Turkmenistan’s president, a known horse enthusiast, won US$11 million by coming first in a race organized to celebrate domestic horse breeding. The triumph was marred by a fall right after the finish line, news which the government tried to suppress.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov took part in last week’s Day of the Turkmen Racehorse by taking to the saddle and competing with six other riders. The president chose a horse of his favorite Akhal-Teke breed to be pitted against other breeds.

All the riders in the race were at least 30 years old and were competing for a prize fund provided by the owners of the horses. The president, 55, and his racehorse Berkarar, reached the finish line less than a second ahead of the second-placed jockey. Skeptics were quick to accuse organizers of fixing the race.

The victory however proved to be costly for the Turkmen leader. Just meters after the finish line his horse apparently stumbled, and Berdymukhamedov dived over its head and fell face-first into the turf. The development apparently caused several tense minutes for his security staff and cabinet members, who rushed on to the racetrack in their dozens.

An ambulance arrived minutes later and took the president away. However about an hour later he was in good enough shape to appear at the event once more, so apparently the fall didn’t cause any serious injuries. Witnesses however say Berdymukhamedov was restrained in his movements as he waved to the spectators of the race day.

Local media in the Central Asian country didn’t mention the fall while reporting the president’s victory, stopping the footage as he crossed the finish line. However the uncut version quickly leaked to the internet. Some online media said the footage surfaced despite attempts by security personnel to confiscate all copies made by the hundreds of people attending the event.

The Turkmen president’s office said he plans to spend the $11 million of prize money on developing the Turkmen horse breeding industry.