Jessica & Pavarotti’s clear round to secure Team Bronze, 2019 Lima Photo by: Cealy Tetley
Two-time Olympian (London and Rio) and five-time Pan AM Medalist Jessica Phoenix, who was born and raised in Uxbridge, ON is heading to Tokyo with her trusted steed, Pavarotti. Rotti, as he is affectionately known, is a Westphalian gelding. Together, they are Canada’s most decorated pair in the sport of eventing, having won five consecutive Pan AM medals, including Individual Gold and Team Silver (Guadalajara in 2011), Individual Silver and Team Bronze (Toronto 2015) and Team Bronze (Lima 2019). Phoenix herself is one of 17 eventers in the world to have competed in over 100 CCI 4* S (in layman’s terms – that’s like an F1 Driver competing in over 100 F1 races).
Said Jessica Phoenix of Rotti, “I am thrilled to be heading to Tokyo with Rotti. He is such an amazing competitor. We have been together for over 10 years now and we have a bond and a trust that goes beyond words. He is a member of my family and Canada’s eventing family. We have been working towards this moment since 2016 – and he deserves his moment to shine.”
Phoenix, who runs a farm outside Cannington with her husband Joel, is no stranger to representing Canada: she was first named to the Canadian Talent Squad in 2000 and has never looked back, being named to the team every year since 2003. Yet her journey to the Olympics has been a story worthy of a book, and she has one, called RISE: The Jessica Phoenix Story published in 2017, and written by acclaimed author Julie Fitz-Gerald. RISE chronicles the equestrian’s long yet challenging road to success. Along the way there was a near-fatal injury – just after the birth of her second child and before the Toronto Pan AM Games. Phoenix, known for her unwavering faith, commitment and determination, healed in time to represent Canada on Rotti – winning the silver medal in front of her home crowd. Now in it’s 4th print run, the book is available at select bookstores across Canada, on-line, on Amazon, and at select libraries.
Said Julie Fitz-Gerald, “This is a story about trial and triumph. It’s about a small-town girl with big dreams and the faith to realize them. It’s about fighting through life threatening injuries and injustice to achieve a greater goal — and doing so with a level of determination, confidence, and grace that shines bright. As Jessica Phoenix’s sister, I’ve been privy to the backstory of how a Canadian Olympian is made… It’s a powerful blueprint that we can all use to overcome the inevitable curveballs life throws at us.”
And then there is a song, also released in 2017, called RISE. Written by Elyse Saunders, Kyle Renton and Darryl Scott and performed by Saunders, the trio were inspired by Jessica’s story: how did this dynamo of a woman manage to recover from such a catastrophic injury to go on and win medals within two months of the accident? The song was transformed into a dance hit by DJ Danny D – a Toronto-based radio DJ with a cult-following in the clubs. His remix of the song would go on to break into radio’s HOT 20 Chart where it would remain for 13 consecutive weeks.
Said Elyse Saunders, “It was such an honour to write and perform the song RISE. Meeting Jessica, and getting to know her, becoming friends, one cannot help but cheer for her. She is so kind, dedicated and hardworking – and then there is the pure love and sheer joy she has for her horses. You can tell that there is an incredible bond between her and Pavarotti. A connection – and that is what makes them so special. You can bet that I am cheering for them in Tokyo.”
Saunders is not the only one cheering for Phoenix. There are thousands of school children across Ontario and Alberta who have attended the RISE SCHOOL TOUR. Since 2018, Jessica and her sister Julie have travelled to schools with the simple message: BE YOU! Live your passion. Follow your dreams. Be courageous. RISE is more than a song. It’s more than a book. It’s a movement that is sweeping the nation. It’s not uncommon for school kids to start singing the song RISE while waiting for the presentation to start. And a fun fact: each presentation ended with the publisher of RISE gifting the school with the RISE PLEDGE BANNER. This banner, placed in an area where students could see it daily, was a gentle reminder to the kids to reach their goals – and to be kind to one another. Among the pledges are those of Jessica’s and Julie’s, with Jessica boldly stating: “Tokyo Gold”!
Canada’s dynamic eventing duo is now stateside, before heading to Europe with their destination Tokyo. The eventing competition starts on July 30th and ends on August 2nd. The Cross-Country element is expected to be a grueling technical course, designed by Derek Di Grazia, who designed the 2019 Pan AM Cross Country track among many others.
You can follow Jessica and Rotti’s Tokyo journey on Instagram @officialteamphoenix