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Inside the Rolex Grand Slam: Questions & Answers with Course Designer Frank Rothenberger

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen went ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

Absolutely delighted! We’ve been waiting for such a long time to have another big event like this again. We managed to stage a 3* jumping show in the dressage stadium this time last year when some COVID-19 restrictions were in place, but it was absolutely not comparable to what we have here now. I’m so glad we’re finally back. Last night we nearly had a full stadium for the Nations’ Cup, which is a very nice class and for me one of the best classes of the year, alongside the Rolex Grand Prix, of course.

I’m not working at CHIO Aachen for the whole year – I’m only coming here to design courses. We have to prepare the courses for the CHIO months in advance, which we completed in February and March this year. However, we didn’t know if the show would go ahead and what the schedule would look like. We decided we would work to last year’s schedule, but we still had to wait for the authorities to tell us how many spectators would be allowed to attend. But it’s happening, so we are extremely grateful for everyone’s hard work, especially the organising committee.

It must give you a real boost having spectators back watching top sport at CHIO Aachen?

Yes, it’s so cool! On Wednesday we had a big class and the stadium was almost without any spectators – it was so strange and it felt like a training competition. But yesterday the stadium was much more full and there’s a great atmosphere here with the crowds every day, and hopefully on Sunday it will feel almost back to normal.

What makes CHIO Aachen so special for you?

The organisation of the event is top. CHIO Aachen is run by 25 or 30 full-time employees all year, and what they’re consistently doing is absolutely perfect. They really focus on every little detail and in the end the product is just quality, it’s class.

Tell us a little bit about the course that you’ve designed for the Rolex Grand Prix…

It’s a competition over two rounds with a jump-off. We will have 40 horse and rider combinations. Five riders have pre-qualified already and another 18 from yesterday evening’s Nations’ Cup. There are then two more classes where riders were able to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix. As it is every year, I hope it will be a spectacular class. We have 13 jumps in the first round and another 10 in the second round. We will hopefully end up with a jump-off including just a few riders, which is what the crowd here would like to see, but you never know and this is what makes the sport interesting. For me, between three and five riders in the jump-off would be perfect.

How positive is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the sport?

I’ll give an example. Recently, seven international riders between the ages of 25 to 30 were asked what their career goals and ambitions were. They all said the same: winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. No one mentioned the World or European Championships or the Olympic Games, simply Aachen and the Rolex Grand Prix, so I think that goes to show that the Rolex Grand Slam is the pinnacle.

Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam

Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder


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