When Turkmenistan’s president took an embarrassing tumble off his horse following a race, he wanted to make sure it didn’t go viral.
Despite the country’s attempt to suppress the footage, it has been published to YouTube, the Associated Press reports.
President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, a horse-lover, is seen in traditional garb as his horse falls head first, throwing him to the ground. His mount, Berkarar (Turkmen for “Mighty”), buckled underneath him right after crossing the finish line of a one-kilometer race, Gundogar reports.
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The 55-year-old Berdymukhamedov is portrayed as larger than life by the government, which controls state media including domestic broadcasting and newspapers. The race video was cut off right before the president’s plunge, and the media portrays a photo finish for the president.
“The spectators' attention was riveted on the golden arrow -- ‘Berkarar, led by the leader of the nation,’” Neytralny Turkmenistan, a daily newspaper, wrote about the president who allegedly won Sunday’s race. “All was decided by fractions of a second, and Berkarar was the first to cross the finish line."
The president appeared later to collect the $11 million purse, which he says will go toward improving the country’s horse breeding, AP reports.
Berdymukhamedov, who has been in power since 2006, has a tight grip on the Central Asian country of 5.5 million people. The former Soviet nation holds the fourth-largest reserve of natural gas on the planet, Reuters reports.
Witnesses say security was tightened at Ashgabat airport to check passengers’ computers, cell phones, tablets and cameras for the footage.
The president’s god-like persona wasn’t enough to cushion his fall.
“Of course, it was a big shock for the public,” Clara de Vos van Steenwijk, who was in the crowd, told Gundogar. “There were thousands of people there, and you could hear a pin drop.”