The tragic death of two show jumpers sent the equestrian world reeling on Monday, January 4, 2016, when news broke that Andres Rodriguez and Sophie Walker had been killed.
Venezuelan jumping athlete Andres Rodriguez, individual silver medalist at the 2015 Pan-American Games, has died in hospital of injuries sustained in a car crash in Wellington, Florida on January 4. He was 31.
A passenger in the car, Sophie Walker, age 30, died at the scene of the crash. Ms. Walker was a talented amateur rider on the U.S. national circuit.
Rodriguez’s career highlight came at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto when he rode Darlon Van Groenhove to Individual Silver. He twice represented Venezuela at world championship level, at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky, and the 2014 Games in Normandy.
His first major success came in 1996 when he won the FEI Children’s Jumping Final. He went on to claim Team Gold and Individual Silver at the 2013 Bolivarian Games in Lima (PER), Team Gold at the 2010 Central American & Caribbean Games in Mayaguez (PUR), and Individual Gold at the South American Games in Medellin (COL) the same year.
The athlete was bidding to make his Olympic debut at Rio 2016, and was also hoping to make his first appearance at the CHIO in Aachen, Germany, this year. He had already realized his goal of a place in the world top 50 and was in 41st on the Longines Rankings.
Born in Venezuela, he moved to Europe after graduating from high school to train with Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa. More recently, he was based in Paris for the summer season and in Florida for the winter, where he was trained by Irish Jumping legend Eddie Macken. He married his long-term partner Clementine Goutal last month.
“To lose two young athletes in this dreadful way is a terrible shock and our hearts go out to their families and friends,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “Andres Rodriguez was a world-class athlete and clearly a superstar in the making. For his life to be cut short in this way is absolutely heart-breaking.”
“The sport has tragically lost one of its greatest ambassadors with the passing of Andres Rodriguez, and I have lost a dear friend, as indeed have many others,” FEI Jumping Director John Roche said. “Andres was a wonderful horseman and an amazing person with a very positive approach to life. He had a heart as big as Mount Everest. He will be greatly missed by us all.”