ROLEX AND SPORTS

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For al­most a cen­tury, Rolex has been as­so­ci­ated with the quest for ex­cel­lence in­her­ent in sport. To­day, Rolex is present at the most pres­ti­gious events in golf, sail­ing, ten­nis, mo­tor sport, and at eques­trian tour­na­ments. Given the longevity and strength of these re­la­tion­ships, Rolex is seen not merely as a spon­sor, but also as a part­ner. ROLEX AND EQUESTRIANISM

The crown in equestrianism for over 50 years, Rolex is a ma­jor force at play, sup­port­ing the pin­na­cle of the sport. From top-level rid­ers to iconic events, Rolex has cul­ti­vated a priv­i­leged re­la­tion­ship with this elite world.

Rolex Tes­ti­monee Mered­ith Michael­sBeer­baum re­flects on key mo­ments in an ex­traor­di­nary rid­ing ca­reer…

Time con­tin­ues mov­ing for­ward, but spe­cial mo­ments are never for­got­ten. That’s espe­cially true for cel­e­brated cham­pion and Rolex Tes­ti­monee, Mered­ith Michaels-beer­baum. Born on 26th De­cem­ber 1969 in Los Angeles (US), Michaels-beer­baum is the first woman show jumper to be ranked world num­ber one. Her ca­reer is a cat­a­logue of re­mark­able achieve­ments – each one re­flect­ing a spe­cial mo­ment in time.

Michaels-beer­baum first started show­ing signs of suc­cess in 1983, at the age of 14. Com­pet­ing in the Sen­a­tor’s Cup at the Washington In­ter­na­tional Horse Show– an am­a­teur com­pe­ti­tion for the best young rid­ers in the United States, the then teenager rode an ex-grand prix horse in the event, a horse she had been savinge spe­cially for this com­pe­ti­tion. “I never for­got that mo­ment be­cause I won and the prize was a gold Rolex watch, my first ever.”

Grow­ing up in Cal­i­for­nia, she al­ways dreamed of win­ning a gold medal at the Olympics: “I still have a short au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, which I wrote at school as a 10-year-old. I had to ex­plain in the es­say what I wanted to achieve in the fu­ture. I stuck a photo of a show jumper on the page and put a cap­tion un­der­neath say­ing ‘Mered­ith Michaels wins Olympic gold’.”

“The 1984 Games were held in Los Angeles, and for me that rep­re­sented the pin­na­cle of ath­leti­cism. My step­fa­ther bought tick­ets to the fi­nal of the show jump­ing, but un­for­tu­nately we mis­read the start time on the day of the event and ac­tu­ally missed the com­pe­ti­tion – it was ter­ri­ble!”

The US team went on to win gold that year and the then 15-yearold Michaels-beer­baum watched ev­ery mo­ment on tele­vi­sion. It was many years later, af­ter mar­ry­ing Ger­man show jumper Markus Beer­baum and be­com­ing a nat­u­ral­ized Ger­man, that she fi­nally ful­filled her dream of rid­ing at the Olympics, first in 2008 (Bei­jing) and again in 2012 (Lon­don).

Michaels-beer­baum says she keeps all her eques­trian me­men­tos from the past, although some are still at her fam­ily home in the United States. “I came to Europe in 1991 to turn pro­fes­sional with only a back­pack on my shoul­der and a pair of spurs in my hand. But I have won plenty of tro­phies since.”

She trained at the sta­ble of leg­endary Ger­man rider Paul Schock­emöhle, in Mühlen, Ger­many, plan­ning to stay for only one sum­mer, but it soon be­came three and the start of a new life in Ger­many. It was dur­ing that time that she met Markus Beer­baum, her hus­band to be.

“Mov­ing to Europe was cer­tainly the most sig­nif­i­cant cat­a­lyst in my ca­reer; the sec­ond was chang­ing my na­tion­al­ity and be­com­ing Ger­man – that was a ma­jor de­ci­sion. One un­der­ly­ing mem­ory that I at­tribute to that mo­ment is the num­ber of peo­ple telling me how a woman would never, ever be put on the na­tional cham­pi­onship show jump­ing team in Ger­many. For­tu­nately, they were wrong.”

Michaels-beer­baum’s par­ents were very sup­port­ive of her stay­ing in Europe and quit­ting her stud­ies at Princeton Univer­sity. “The hard­est part for them to ac­cept was when I de­cided to change my na­tion­al­ity and be­come a Ger­man,” she says.

Af­ter Michaels-beer­baum’s move, her rid­ing ca­reer quickly went from strength to strength. “My first pro­fes­sional win was the Maas­tricht Grand Prix. There was no prize money but I won a city car. I was the hap­pi­est per­son on the face of the earth.” A string of achieve­ments fol­lowed and her ex­cep­tional re­sults were rec­og­nized in 2005, with an in­vi­ta­tion to be­come a Rolex Tes­ti­monee.

“I was one of Rolex’s first eques­trian Tes­ti­monees – it was a great hon­our to be wel­comed into the Rolex fam­ily and be as­so­ci­ated with such a pres­ti­gious brand. I was lucky enough to win my first Rolex watch when I was 14, so I knew the im­por­tance of the Rolex name. Only the very best sports­men and women are in­vited to rep­re­sent Rolex and that meant ev­ery­thing to me,” says Michaels-beer­baum.

Her tro­phy cab­i­net at her home in Ger­many is tes­ta­ment to that phe­nom­e­nal tal­ent, as one of the sport’s most suc­cess­ful rid­ers. She re­mains the only woman, and one of only three peo­ple, to have ever claimed three World Cup Fi­nal vic­to­ries – first in Las Ve­gas (US), in 2005; then the Rolex World Cup Fi­nal in Gothen­burg (Swe­den), in 2008; and fi­nally the Rolex World Cup Fi­nal again in Las Ve­gas, in 2009.

“My sec­ond World Cup Fi­nal win in Las Ve­gas was my most per­fect vic­tory. I won each of the three legs, and my horse Shut­ter­fly and I jumped with­out any faults. It was also an ex­tremely emo­tional time for me, as my step­fa­ther passed away at the age of 69 just six weeks be­fore the show. He was one of the main rea­sons why I was where I was in the sport – he sup­ported me for many, many years! He was the one who took me to horse shows and spent all the money that he had to buy me horses.”

Since win­ning her first watch in 1983, Michaels-beer­baum has built up a col­lec­tion of Rolex time­pieces, each one wit­ness to her glit­ter­ing ca­reer. “I al­ways wear one of my Rolex watches when I’m rid­ing, and I tend to ro­tate them ev­ery 3-4 months – I def­i­nitely see them as my lucky charms,” she claims. “Away from show jump­ing, if I go scuba div­ing, I’ll make sure that I put on my Yacht­mas­ter.”

“With­out a doubt, my favourite Rolex watch is the Date­just in white gold, which I won at my sec­ond World Cup Fi­nal vic­tory in Gothen­burg, 2008. En­graved with ‘Rolex Cham­pion’ on the back, it’s a watch that re­minds me of one of my most glo­ri­ous mo­ments as a show jumper. I re­mem­ber the Fi­nal be­cause I en­tered the arena know­ing that I couldn’t af­ford to knock any fences down. Many of the other rid­ers hit the last fence, so I had to go clear to win. To make mat­ters worse, Shut­ter­fly was so ner­vous in the warm-up ring that he re­fused to jump! He was very sen­si­tive and he could feel the ten­sion but I just trusted him and we went into the ring and made it hap­pen!”

In Fe­bru­ary 2010 a new chap­ter in Mered­ith’s life be­gan when she wel­comed her daugh­ter Bri­anne Vic­to­ria to the world. De­spite her con­cerns about re­turn­ing to the sad­dle, in Septem­ber 2010 she was com­pet­ing at the 2010 Ken­tucky World Eques­trian Games, and even won Team gold.

Given Michaels-beer­baum’s long term af­fil­i­a­tion with Aachen, it was only fit­ting that in 2011 she re­tire her glob­ally renowned and much loved horse, Shut­ter­fly. He was the world’s most suc­cess­ful show jumper and to­gether they reached the very pin­na­cle of eques­trian sport. Even with Shut­ter­fly step­ping down from elite com­pe­ti­tion, Michaels-beer­baum con­tin­ued to re­tain her sta­tus at the high­est level and in 2015, she lead Ger­many to Team sil­ver at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in Aachen.

“I went into the com­pe­ti­tion with a brand new horse, Fi­bonacci. I think we were both ner­vous but the horse was fan­tas­tic. I had two mis­takes; with­out them, I def­i­nitely would have been on the in­di­vid­ual podium. I was so pleased the Team won the sil­ver medal. I also took huge strength from the per­for­mance of Fi­bonacci,” said the cham­pion rider.

World num­ber one for 24 months and the first woman in his­tory to rep­re­sent Ger­many in a Cham­pi­onship event, her con­tin­ued ac­com­plish­ments have set a prece­dence for suc­cess­ful and as­pir­ing show-jumpers around the world. Michaels-beer­baum’s con­tin­ued pur­suit of per­fec­tion is syn­ony­mous with Rolex, and re­flects their core val­ues of ex­cel­lence and pre­ci­sion.

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