Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

Rodrigo Pessoa Predicts Germany Will Claim Yet Another Olympic Team Gold

Reigning Olympic individual gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa handicaps the Olympic show jumping field, giving Germany the edge and deeming the U.S. worthy of silver.

I’m going to pick Germany for gold, and then the United States and then Great Britain.



Reigning Olympic individual gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa handicaps the Olympic show jumping field, giving Germany the edge and deeming the U.S. worthy of silver.

I’m going to pick Germany for gold, and then the United States and then Great Britain.
The Germans have an outstanding team of riders this year—and they all have strong horses. Each of them has been performing well all season, and I think that the team is ready to erase the disappointing result from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. [They were stripped of their team gold medal (their third consecutive) after Ludger Beerbaum’s mount Goldfever tested positive for a forbidden substance and was eliminated. The team fell to bronze.]

For the U.S. team, you have two very experienced pairs. When it comes to events like this, you want a rider who knows his horse well, and McLain Ward knows Sapphire perfectly. They will try to peak on the right day, and they will be a strong possibility. Does he have the mettle to do it? I don’t know. But that’s really a combination that knows how to be ready on the right day.

Beezie Madden, of course, is an amazing rider, and talk about someone who knows how to get ready for the right day! That is one solid combination. Laura Kraut is a super rider, but her horse Cedric is still a little bit green and could be a little bit surprised. We don’t really know about Will Simpson yet. Will doesn’t have too much international experience. The horse also is pretty green, so he’s a little bit of a question mark, but I still put the team in second.

Great Britain looks pretty good—they’re my pick for team bronze. On that team you have a lot of experience between Michael and John Whitaker. This will be Tim Stockdale’s first championship, and the horse [Fresh Direct Corlato] is performing well.  And then they’re taking a young rider, Ben Maher, for his first major championship, but he’s quite a good rider. So I think England could be close.

Canada could play a role as well—they’re not looking bad at all. The riders all have good international experience, and they could end up with a medal if everything goes right. With Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar, you have two very strong combinations, so they might get right up there.

The Dutch team was looking good, but with Albert Zoer and Okidoki off the team their chances have fallen some. [Zoer broke his leg in two places while training a young horse July 8, ending his Olympic bid.] Eurocommerce Berlin is a powerful horse with a good rider [Gerco Schröder] and has plenty of good experience, but he had a bad fall in Aachen (Germany) in the Grand Prix. I don’t know if that’s going to affect him at all. But we’ll see.


As for Brazil, we have three riders that have really good experience [Olympic veterans Bernardo Alves, Álvaro Affonso de Miranda Neto and Pessoa will join rising star Camila Mazza de Benedicto in Hong Kong.] We might lack a little bit in horsepower, but in 1996 and 2000 we had an inferior team and horses, and we came up and took third, so we’re always a team to watch out for.

Pessoa’s Strategy

You don’t have to prepare differently for the Olympics, but the horse has to be in very good physical condition because of the heat and the difficulty of the Games. They have to be physically very tough, but training-wise there’s nothing different to do, just follow the formula.

You want to go through the qualifier and the Nations Cup in a good way. You don’t absolutely have to jump only clean rounds; you just be ready on the day of the final and jump two clear rounds. Then if you can jump two clears, you’ll be very close to the podium.

There’s one thing that I don’t understand with the Olympic Games. Why do we jump normal, big, difficult grand prix all the time, and at the Olympics we have to jump bigger and wider? It’s so extreme—there’s never a jump-off with four or five in it—it’s only one horse who can mange to go double clear. I’ve never really understood that. But we’ll see how it goes this year.

The meteorological conditions in Hong Kong will be tough, but the conditions for the horses, the footing and stabling, will be quite nice. So we’ll see if weather will play a role or not for the competitors—I believe it will for some horses.

For individuals, it’s tricky. After the team competition, you start at zero on Sunday. When the class starts, it can be anyone’s day. There could be any one of 10 or 15 riders who could make it, maybe even more. I could give you 10 names who could win on the right day.

I’m picking the Germans Marco Kutscher and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum for gold and silver. Marco’s horse, Cornet Obolensky, has been jumping extre-mely well, and Marco is a solid rider. Overall, I think that he has the package that it takes to get the job done. Meredith does as well, but if I had to pick one to win, I’d take Marco. Meredith’s horse, Shutterfly, is secure, but he’s a little more on the spooky side. He’s the kind of horse that could be surprised with something.


For bronze, I was going to predict Zoer until his accident. But with him out I’m going to put Eric Lamaze as bronze with Hickstead. The horse is really secure, and Eric is very solid. And Eric’s hungry to take a big event like that.

But there are plenty of other names who we should add to the list—Ludger Beerbaum and his horse [All Inclusive NRW] have been performing really well the past couple of weeks. You can’t find a better rider to rise to the occasion on big moments like this. He has all the experience in the world.

Don’t forget about Jos Lansink from Belgium. He’s a consistent rider, and he’s always there on a big occasion. He’s definitely one you want to watch out for.

Ian Millar is a top jockey, and in the one-day competition [for an individual medal] he certainly has a card to play. I’m not sure if he has enough horsepower to get the job done, but he’s definitely a man to watch.
Christina Liebherr may have a good chance as an individual on L.B. No Mercy. But the rest of her Swiss
teammates are lacking horsepower.

I’m going to take Rufus to Hong Kong. He’s been going OK. I’ve been having some little issues with his bridle, but we’ve been making some changes and pursuing the right bridle. He’s had a lot of really good rounds, some clears, and a lot of fours. I hope we can turn that around and have good, consistent rounds in Hong Kong. 

Rodrigo Pessoa, as told to Mollie Bailey

Four-time Olympian Rodrigo Pessoa anchored the Brazilian show jumping team to bronze-medal finishes at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and earned the individual gold in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Aboard Baloubet du Rouet, Pessoa won an unprecedented three consecutive FEI World Cup Finals in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In 1998, he also added the World Championship to his résumé with victory at the World Equestrian Games (Italy). The 36-year-old trains with his father, Nelson Pessoa, on a farm outside Brussels, Belgium.




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