After winning the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva last year, Steve Guerdat is a contender to claim a Rolex Grand Slam Bonus this weekend in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. During a Rolex Round Table with the press, World of Showjumping spoke with Steve Guerdat about CHIO Aachen, the Rolex Grand Slam and obviously the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month.
Switzerland's Steve Guerdat did not bring his Geneva winner and reigning Olympic champion Nino des Buissonnets to the occasion, but aims his World Cup Final winner Corbinian for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix of CHIO Aachen. Although big prize money comes along with the wonderful Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, Steve Guerdat is not motivated by the money at all. “I am not against the prize money of course”, Steve laughs during the Rolex Round Table with the press. “But I am not motivated by it at all. I love sport in general, so I have always been very keen on big events like Aachen. Coming here since about fifteen years ago, I still get goose bumps in Aachen every day. Even on a Tuesday afternoon the stadium is nearly packed for a young horse class and everyone is enthusiastic. You can feel the heart of the sport, the history of the sport and the wonderful crowd here in Aachen every time again. This is what motivates me. If we were competing for just flowers, I would still love to win on Sunday!”
Being reigning Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat’s focus is not only on the Rolex Grand Slam this year, but mostly on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month. “After my victory with Nino back in Geneva, I already said I would probably not ride him here in Aachen. Everything since then has been fitting the schedule towards Rio. I try to do the best preparation for him and although some horses need to jump a show like Aachen before a major championship, for Nino it is not the best way.”
Steve Guerdat carefully prepared Nino for the Olympic Games over the last couple of months. “At the beginning of his preparation, I had to add some shows to jump 1.25 and 1.30 classes, because was just a bit too fresh and a little stiff from not jumping for a couple of months. In Rome we jumped our first big class again and he felt really good. In Cannes he jumped his first Grand Prix and in Rotterdam he jumped a brilliant double clear in the Nations Cup. In Knokke he jumped double clear as well and I did not risk too much in the jump-off, since I am always thinking: Rio, Rio, Rio”, Steve explains. “Next week, Nino will jump a few 1.30 or 1.35 classes at a two star show in Germany and then he will be ready for Rio!”
Steve Guerdat will be the defending Olympic champion in Brazil next month, but he says to not feel it that way. “I am not defending something what happened four years ago. That is in the past. It is a new Olympics, a new chapter, so I will be going there to try to win a medal. I try to do everything I can to be in the best possible form in Rio. The worst for me would be to have regrets afterwards. No matter what the result will be in Rio, I want to arrive there 100 percent confident and leave there without any regrets.”
But who would be Steve’s picks for a Olympic medal in Rio? “ Well, for the team medals I would probably say Germany, France and the USA are big contenders. And I obviously hope Switzerland will win a medal as well”, Steve smiles. “For the individuals, it is tricky to say, but if I had to pick one rider from who I would be disappointed to not jump double clear in the finals, it would be McLain Ward”, Steve says about USA’s leading rider and obviously his legend in the making HH Azur.
Back to the Rolex Grand Slam; Steve Guerdat will try to claim a second win in the Rolex Grand Slam aboard Corbinian this Sunday. But he can’t tell what his chances are, since it is Corbinian’s first time in the Aachener Soers. “I am glad to be pre qualified for Sunday’s Grand Prix, so I do not have push my horses too much in the beginning of the week. For all of them, it is their first time in Aachen and every horse reacts different to this kind of atmosphere. Corbinian is a bit of a difficult horse, especially outside. He is actually very nice to ride, but if he hears noise he does not like or sees something that makes him spook, it is very hard to get his focus again. With most horses you are able to help them to jump the fences clean anyway, but with Corbinian I just have not found the key yet how to get his focus and attention back”, Steve explains. “Tonight’s Nations Cup will be a great test for Corbinian and if he jumps good tonight, I am confident he will do good on Sunday as well.”
The Rolex Grand Slam means a lot to Steve Guerdat. “It is great for our sport to have a partner like Rolex and it is great that they promote the sport at the three best shows in the world. Any rider would love to win in Aachen, Geneva or Calgary every year and with the addition of the Rolex Grand Slam the sport will remain on these fantastic shows with their long history.” Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos became the first winners of the Rolex Grand Slam last year, but Steve could be the first one to do it on different horses. “You need some horse to be able to win in Geneva, Aachen and Calgary! Nino would be able to do it, but until he was about twelve years old he was not ready to jump on a venue like Aachen and now he is too old and the focus is on the Olympics. But it might be even harder to find a horse that can win in Geneva, find another to win in Aachen and again another to win in Calgary”, Steve states. “I have won three championships on three different horses, so everything is possible”, Steve Guerdat concludes with a smile on his face.
Text © World of Showjumping by Peter van der Waaij // Picture © Rolex / Kit Houghton
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