Thaisa Tavares de Almeida With Sister, Two Brothers Seeking to Make Brazil’s Olympic Team
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 3, 2016–When Thaisa Tavares De Almeida rides Toleirao Da Broa down the centerline of the World Cup Grand Prix here, the 26-year-old rider will be part of the effort of her sister and twin brothers to qualify for the Brazil team when the Olympic Games are staged in her homeland this summer.
Thaisa quit her start-up Internet business and put on hold her engagement to Marcos Gomes, Brazil’s stock car champion, to pursue a dream of representing Brazil at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro she thought may not come her way again after losing out eight years ago.
This year has greater significance for Thaisa and her family–the opportunity to make the most of a second chance at a life with horses at the inaugural Olympics in South America and the desire and pride to perform well before family, friends and fellow Brazilians. As the host nation, Brazil is entitled to a team.
Thaisa, her sister, Luiza, 24, and twin brothers Manuel and Pedro, 22, grew up riding horses bred by her grandfather on their farm an hour from downtown São Paulo, the sprawling metropolis whose 12 million people make it Brazil’s most populous city.
She was 10 years old when she started jumping and switched to dressage five years later after her family started breeding Lusitanos.
“I thought it was a new challenge and wanted to learn,” she told dressage-news.com.”My sister didn’t like it at all–‘this is not nice; jumping is nicer’.”
Eventually, all of the kids fell in love with dressage.
In 2008 after high school, she went with Luiza to Germany for seven months to try to qualify for the Beijing Games. Luiza was successful and at 16 years old became the youngest competitor in the history of dressage at the Games. Four years later, she was the only Latin American at the London Olympics.
Luiza and Manuel represented Brazil at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011 then with the twins competed together for the first time at the World Games in Normandy, France in 2014.
For Thaisa, the experience in 2008 was lonely and dispiriting. She gave up riding altogether to go to college to get an economics degree then work for banks for two years. Along the way she spent time in Paris polishing her French and in London to study finance. Thaisa is now focused on sales and marketing, halfway through two years of getting a masters degree and launched an Internet business.
Although she hadn’t ridden for more than seven years, her father talked her into joining her sister and the twins in trying again to qualify for Brazil’s team of up to four horses and riders and a reserve combination. The rest of her life went on hold.
“I think it’s a good opportunity, maybe my last,” she said. “If something happens it will fulfill my dream.”
Thaisa came to Florida to quarantine Toleirao Da Broa before joining her family in Germany with no thought initially of competing at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. But she decided while here to try earn one of the two scores of 64 per cent at Grand Prix that is the minimum required to be able to ride in an Olympics. She did a warm-up national class with the 16-year-old gray Lusitano stallion she calls “Toto.” to score 66 per cent.
“It’s crazy what I’m doing,” she laughed, “riding for four months trying to get marks to go to the Olympics.”
But she sees this as not only possibly the last chance to go to the Olympics to determine whether to become a professional in the horse business.
“I think in horses you don’t do it half way,” she said. “I think it’s like everything in life, you give it your all.”
Three weeks ago, Thaisa became engaged to Marcos Gomes, the Brazilian stock car champion driver in 2015 who last year drove at Daytona, in Florida. For the moment, though, “I had to put my love life on hold.
“Horses are the only priority.
“It’s the only thing I’m thinking of, the horses. I’m here all by myself.
“Everyone can see the dream, no one can be against it.