Sunday, Jun. 9, 2024

Individual to Watch Show Jumping

Rodrigo Pessoa Feels Much Less Pressure Than The Last Time
But he'll also need to reverse Baloubet du Rouet's form since the 2000 Olympics to be a medal contender again, writes Birgit Popp.


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Rodrigo Pessoa Feels Much Less Pressure Than The Last Time
But he’ll also need to reverse Baloubet du Rouet’s form since the 2000 Olympics to be a medal contender again, writes Birgit Popp.

Every Olympics seems to have its tragic figure: In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics it was Ludger Beerbaum being the best rider in the first and second competition and then having to drop out because Ratina Z had an inflammation in her leg.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics Rodrigo Pessoa, as the World Champion and winner of three consecutive FEI World Cup Finals, was the prohibitive favorite for the gold medal, and he went into the individual final as the best-qualified rider from the first and second competitions.

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In the first round of the individual final, which starts with everyone at 0 in the Olympics, he jumped clear on Baloubet du Rouet. All he needed was one more clear round. But Baloubet lowered the first fence before the truly shocking moment came: the French stallion refused three times at the first element of the double combination.

Baloubet returned to finish a close second in the 2001 World Cup Final, but he has never regained the sovereignty he and Pessoa once had over the sport as the three-time winners of the World Cup Final.

So they’re not the favorites this year, but a second place in one of the major classes at the CHIO Aachen (Germany) on July 14-18 (see p. 120) proved that the amazingly athletic chestnut is once again in good shape. And so the redoubtable pair has to be taken into consideration for an individual medal.

Pessoa, who was expecting his first child with his wife, former U.S. show jumper Keri Potter, just before Aachen, seems to be much more relaxed than he was in 2000.

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“I have a good feeling. Baloubet is in good shape, but, of course, a lot of things can happen, as I know,” he said. “I suppose we have a good chance to win the team bronze medal again, like we did in Atlanta and Sydney. Then we must see, but certainly I do not feel the pressure I did four years ago.”

Even before Rodrigo reached the top, the name Pessoa was famous in show jumping, since for four decades his father, Nelson, was an international star. Rodrigo started to outdo his father when he anchored the Brazilian team to its first Olympic medal (the bronze) in 1996, a success they repeated in Sydney. At age 25 Rodrigo was the youngest individual World Champion in show jumping ever, and no one else has ever won three straight World Cup Finals.

In early 2000 the Pessoa family moved to a farm near Brussells, Belgium. Belgium is a handy place to live since he speaks seven languages–French, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, German and Dutch.

Baloubet du Rouet: ch. s., 15, French-bred Selle Fran

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