“I will never forget the feeling when I won Aachen!”
Back then the first women to top the world ranking list, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) has won countless internationals medals. We spoke to the native US American rider about her affinity for Aachen, the standing of the Rolex Grand Slam for the equestrian sport and her daughter Brianne, who is successful in the jumping sport.
10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam. What does this series mean for the sport?
The Rolex Grand Slam is fantastic, the series has brought the equestrian sport up to a totally new level and puts it on a par with the best sports in the world. Of course, the large amounts of prize money that weren’t available to this extent before, are a big incentive. That is simply fantastic.
Nick Skelton once said with a wink: “It is a shame the series didn’t exist back then, when I was so successful.” Do you think the same?
Yes, it really is a shame. I had two super horses and would have had two great chances to take part in the Rolex Grand Slam back then with Shutterfly and Checkmate. But even if it did come too late for me, that still doesn’t alter anything about the quality of this series. It has further developed our sport decisively and that is positive for the future of the equestrian sport.
Up until now, there has only ever been one Rolex Grand Slam winner: Scott Brash. Is it as difficult to win three Majors in succession as it seems?
Yes, it is. Winning one Major alone is difficult. There is strong competition, the riders are good, the horses are good and the courses are hard. Fractions of seconds or millimetres often only lie between a victory and a defeat. But Scott Brash succeeded in achieving this feat and McLain Ward is on the right track. It is incredibly difficult, but not impossible.
You mentioned McLain Ward. How high do you think the chances are of him winning the Rolex Grand Slam in Aachen?
The chance is there of course. McLain is a super rider and he has a super horse. Both are in good form. But everything simply has to come together in that one decisive moment. I absolutely hope he pulls it off, but he has strong competition, all of whom want to win in Aachen naturally.
You yourself triumphed in Aachen in 2005. Can you remember the feeling back then?
Of course, that victory was one of the highlights of my career. Winning in Aachen had always been my big dream. For me it is the best show in the whole world. The conditions, the spectators, the atmosphere, the Main Stadium – all of this turns Aachen into something very special. The feeling of being celebrated as the winner there by the ecstatic crowd was incomparable. I will never forget that moment.
When you are in Aachen, do you look up at the famous winners’ board every time? Or does it become part of the routine at some point?
No, that never becomes part of the routine. There are many special places in Aachen, I always like to drop in at. The winners’ board is of course one of them. But I also like going to the “Walk of Fame” next to the entrance to the offices. One of Shutterfly’s horseshoes is embedded in the floor there.
In sporting circles the “equal pay” debate is currently being held in Germany. It is about men and women having the same conditions and payment. The equestrian sport has always been an exception here…
…yes, our sport really is special regarding this issue. In our sport women and men can compete against each other at eye level. Because a rider’s strength is not decisive when riding. Riders actually need a big portion of fine feeling to be successful. Which means a slender, small woman like myself can compete against a man in Aachen – and actually even win.
Your daughter Brianne is currently very successful on the jumping circuit. It looks like she is going to follow in your footsteps…
Yes, she really is very talented and is absolutely mad about our sport. Last weekend she took part in her first ever Nations Cup in Austria (in the age group Children, editor’s note). Watching her ride in a red jacket really brought tears to my eyes. I can’t express in words how proud I am of her. Experiencing her development is just as nice as it was to experience my own victories.
A lot of people say Brianne’s style is very similar to her mother’s…
… yes, that’s true. Many people say Brianne looks like a mini Meredith when she’s riding. That is really fascinating – and a bit funny too (laughs).
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