Rodrigo eyes Grand Slam and WEG success

Rolex Testimonee Rodrigo Pessoa with Status.
Rolex Testimonee Rodrigo Pessoa with Status. © Rolex/Kit Houghton

Leading Brazilian showjumper Rodrigo Pessoa has his sights on two major competitions this season – the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. 

“After 26 years in the sport, the big events are what keep my engine going now,” said Pessoa, 41.

The Rolex Grand Slam kicks off in Aachen, Germany, in July, with WEG getting under way a couple of months later.

“The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something that really appeals to me, along with the World Equestrian Games and Olympic Games.  I am very fortunate to get up in the morning and get to do what I love to do.”

Introduced in 2013, the Rolex Grand Slam initiative brings together three of the most prestigious events in the world of Show Jumping – CHIO Aachen, CSIO Calgary and CHI Geneva.  Pessoa will be among the world’s best seeking to become the first rider to claim the Rolex Grand Slam and its lucrative prize of €1 million for any rider who can win all three Grand Prix events in succession.

“It’s achievable, but it’s not going to be done every year. It’s not meant to be easy!” said Pessoa, who was 2004 Olympic Champion. “There can only be one winner, and everyone wants to win it. It’s similar to winning a Major like Wimbledon or the US Open or The Masters. As an athlete, it is what you wake up for, to win one of those events. It takes a special horse and rider to achieve it, it’s very tough, but I think it’s possible. I hope one day we see it done. It would be great publicity for the sport world-wide.”

His two top mounts are Citizenguard Cadjanine Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare (Canabis Z x Feinschnitt I Z) that he has been riding since July of 2013, and the recently acquired Status, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Satisfaction x Sao Paulo).

In the meantime, Pessoa will hone his skills at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, which recently announced a 10-year partnership with Rolex. Competing alongside Pessoa this winter are fellow Rolex Testimonees Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany and 2008 Canadian Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze.

“We have all been good friends for a long time,” explained Pessoa, who is the longest serving Rolex Testimonee, having come on board in 1997. “We are happy when one of the other Rolex Testimonees win, and it’s good for the team. We are good sportsman, of course, but we like for Rolex Testimonees to win the big events.”

“It’s been an unbelievable sponsorship,” continued Pessoa, whose timepiece of choice after 17 years remains the Rolex Daytona. “For me, it’s an unbelievable honour to represent a brand like Rolex.  More than a partner, more than a sponsorship, it’s really a family.”

Pessoa, whose family name is synonymous with showjumping, first traveled to the Wellington area in 1984 with his father, the legendary Nelson Pessoa. Two decades later, he returned to south Florida to discover that the competition scene had exploded. In 2006, Pessoa gave up the nomadic lifestyle of indoor competition in Europe in favour of spending his winters sleeping in the same bed every night while competing in warm temperatures under sunny skies.

“It is an ideal place to prepare our younger horses and prepare our Grand Prix horses as well for the main events of the year,” Pessoa said of his winter base. “These three months here in Florida really help me to carry on for the rest of the year. When I leave here, I look forward to coming back.”

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