Interview with Major winner Gregory Wathelet
On Sunday, Gregory Wathelet claimed the victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017. In an interview, the Belgian rider talked about the fascination of Aachen, the material that Major winners are made of and his birthday plans.
Congratulations on winning the Major in Aachen! Tell us about your “Rolex Grand Prix” experience!
Gregory Wathelet: It was simply fantastic! The atmosphere in Aachen is always unique, just like the crowd. It is a really special feeling every time when one rides into the Stadium, not at all comparable with the other shows one competes at every weekend. Everyone knows in advance that the “Rolex Grand Prix” is going to present difficult challenges and it was no different this time either. The horses have to convince with their scope, technique and speed. I am incredibly proud of my mare. I don’t think one could put it down to luck. I believe “Coree” simply jumped exceptionally. Today’s victory was down to her. Thanks to her my name is now entered on the winners’ board in Aachen and that is the most magnificent gift ever for me!
When did you realise that Sunday could perhaps become your day?
Wathelet: To be honest not until the final rider, Laura Kraut, had taken the last obstacle in the jump-off. Everything was open until the very end, all competitors were highly-motivated. The Grand Slam Majors are the best and most difficult shows in the world. It doesn’t suffice to give just 100 percent. One has to give 500 percent and simply hope that it is enough. This time we pulled it off.
This victory means your personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun. So, where does it go from here for you?
Wathelet: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is a great challenge for us riders. We are extremely grateful to Rolex for their huge commitment to our sport and for enabling such fantastic shows like Aachen, Calgary, Geneva and `s-Hertogenbosch. I believe every rider dreams of winning the Grand Slam and it goes without saying that I will give it my best shot and prepare myself as well as possible for the next Major. But first of all I want to savour this victory here in Aachen. Over the next few days, I will then draw up a plan for Calgary together with my team.
It is your birthday on September 10th. It is coincidentally the very day on which the Grand Prix is taking place in Calgary. But, wouldn’t a second Major victory in succession be a wonderful birthday present?
Wathelet: Yes, of course (laughs). But, as I said, at the moment I am still overjoyed about my victory in Aachen. We will have to wait and see what happens thereafter. But one thing is sure, I will certainly be celebrating my birthday in Calgary this year.
Gregory Whatelet with the Rolex Grand Slam signpost (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton)