- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Call it the fall that never happened. When Turkmenistan President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov fell face-first from his horse and hit the dirt hard during an elite race attended by thousands, media turned a blind eye — and camera, and pen. The nation’s press doesn’t have any account of it occurring.

Yet thousands were in the stands to witness his embarrassing pitch, which took place right on the dirt track of the hippodrome located in Ashgabat, The Associated Press reported. The 55-year-old leader, who touts a public face of competency and power, stumbled right off his celebrated desert racehorse steed, the Akhal-Teke breed, AP reported. Watch the news or read a paper, though, and it never happened.

State-run television cut the clip of the race right before the fall. And state-run newspapers conveniently forgot to mention it. It’s hard to argue the media silence was unintended. While the horse quickly recovered and returned to standing position, Mr. Berdymukhamedov lay flat for some time, AP reported. An ambulance was even dispatched.

Still, amazingly even, Mr. Berdymukhamedov won the race — at least by state-run media accounts. AP said he reappeared at the finish line a half hour after his fall and accepted the $11 million winner’s prize.

His security team, meanwhile, went into overtime to check departing race-goers for video-taping materials, and delete any phone and camera tapes of the race they found, AP said.

Turkmenistan is a Central Asian nation of about 5 million, located between the Caspian Sea and Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

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