After facing preparation difficulties, when he even lived in a trailer, Rodolpho Riskalla, 36, won this Wednesday (26) the silver medal in Class IV Dressage Equestrian (for riders with one or more weakened limbs or some degree of visual impairment) at the Tokyo-2020 Paralympics.
The Brazilian, who rode Don Henrico, scored 74,659 in his performance. It was the eighth Brazilian medal in Japan, the first in equestrianism.
The gold went to the Dutch Sanne Voets, with the Demantur mount, with 76,585. Bronze with Belgian Manon Claeys, with 72,853 points.
In the final, he had the support of his mother, Rosangele, who is his trainer, and his sister, Victoria, a former dressage athlete. But the knight didn’t notice.
“I don’t really absorb much of what’s going on around me. I try to absorb what’s going on there with the horse. I haven’t been able to train one day on the track [das Paralimpíadas de Tóquio], but I know the horse. And he relaxed during the presentation,” said Riskalla, in an interview with SporTV.
Riskalla’s Paralympic cycle was fraught with difficulties after the Rio Games in 2016. First, he had to retire his old mount after the event in Brazil. You went a year without a horse.
In July 2017 he got Don Henrico, who belongs to former German rider Ann Kathrin Lisenhoff, 61, Olympic champion in team dressage in Seoul-1988.
Preparations then began for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon (United States) in 2018 and for the Paralympics in Tokyo, originally scheduled for 2020.
At the Worlds, the partnership worked very well. Riskalla won silver in the singles and freestyle singles, both in Class IV.
Then came the pandemic. In order to train in France, where he lives, he lived for two months in a trailer with his mother and sister after the closing of the Polo Club in Paris. As a result, she lived 60 km south of the capital to continue training at a friend’s stud farm.
With the reopening of the borders, it was between France, where he works at the Christian Dior brand, and Germany, the country he used for the final stretch of preparation for the Games.
Originally, Riskalla competed in dressage for non-disabled athletes. In 2014, he decided to end his career, after a string of disappointing results.
He, who already worked at Christian Dior in Paris, returned to Brazil in 2015, when his father died. In the country, he experienced a drama: he contracted bacterial meningitis and came to be between life and death.
“I was very sick. They put me in a coma so I could breathe. My heart and everything were stopping. I was in a coma for almost three weeks,” said the Brazilian, in an interview on the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) website.
“Somehow I managed to survive. They said it was probably because I was in good health [antes da doença]. But my hands and legs suffered a lot,” he added.
As his medical insurance was from France, Riskalla returned to Paris, where he had to amputate his lower legs, right hand and two fingers of his left hand.
It felt like the end of the line. But the sport showed him new paths. Riskalla returned to dressage training in January 2016, five months after the amputation surgeries, with a borrowed horse.
“It’s important to have goals. I dreamed of participating in the Olympic Games. But then I thought: ‘Why not the Paralympics?’ My mother told me: ‘It’s okay, you have four years to qualify.’ And I told her: ‘No, I want to go to the Paralympics this year,'” said the rider.
The dream came true months later. At the Rio-2016 Games, competing in class III, he was 10th in individual and 7th in teams. Five years later, in a more competitive category, he managed to climb the Paralympic podium.
“I always want more. I want to win, to be the best. I’ve always been like that. That’s how I went through it, because I managed to adapt. Adaptability is the key word, and pushing your own limits a little. We all have more strength than that. we think we have,” teaches the knight.