By Jan Westmark-Allan
Olympian Rodrigo Pessoa may only be 38 years old, but he is already a legend in the world of show jumping. He has been named the world’s best rider, has multiple Olympic medals to his name and he won the World Cup on Baloubet du Rouet three years in a row. Rodrigo is well known in the show world not only for his impressive riding ability, but for his close relationship with his father, his flair for speaking multiple languages and his desire to be the best.
Rodrigo is so well known, in fact, that when Horseware Ireland decided to develop a new line of clothing, they looked no further than Rodrigo. Their new line, the Rodrigo Pessoa collection, will debut in the fall of 2011 and is inspired by Rodrigo’s Brazilian heritage.
Rodrigo was instrumental in developing the clothing line, and as a rider he knew it was important for the clothing to be able to perform at the highest level, while still looking stylish. Rodrigo is known for having high standards, a trait he easily transferred to his specifications for the clothing line. He wanted the material and the finishing of the product to be of the highest standards. The clothing collection will incorporate the primary colors of Rodrigo’s country flag, including dramatic reds, blues, yellows and greens.
While Rodrigo is excited to lend his name to the Latin-inspired line, he said his style at home and around the barn is quite simple. “My wife Alexa likes fashion and understands it very well,” Rodrigo said, adding that he and Alexa were married in 2009. “I tend to wear the same classic look all the time – jeans, polo shirt and tennis shoes.”
While Rodrigo’s clothing line is inspired by his heritage, it is a heritage that he is quite proud of. Growing up with a famous riding father, Nelson Pessoa, Rodrigo followed in his father’s footsteps at an early age. “My father has definitely had the biggest influence on my career,” he said. Rodrigo’s showing career began when he was nine, competing ponies in England. At 16, he began his Grand Prix career and hasn’t looked back since.
Now that Rodrigo is also a father, there is a chance the riding legacy could continue. “My daughter Cecilia is seven years old and Sophia is five months old,” he said. “But if my children don’t want to ride, they don’t have to.” Either way, Cecilia and Sophia will certainly be proud of their dad and his many accomplishments.
When pressed to pick a few “best” accomplishments of his career, Rodrigo named the World Championship in Rome in 1998 and the World Cup in 2000 as highlights. “And if I had to pick my favorite horses I would pick Special Envoy and Oasis, because of their generosity,” he said. “Right now, I would say Let’s Fly is my favorite horse.”
Like most top riders, Rodrigo’s goal is to stay on top for as long as he can. “If I do it, I want to do it well. Otherwise I will just stop,” Rodrigo said, adding that he hopes to be remembered as someone who did his job well and tried to help make the sport better. And while he has medals, clothing lines and countless titles to his name, Rodrigo also hopes to be remembered for being a good dad.
“Being a father is the most important and difficult job one has,” he said. Which is why, in his spare time, he likes to be at home with his family. “I like to stay home as much as I can, to recharge my batteries.”