ROLEX AND SPORTS
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.