Michael Blake, Irish Show Jumping Development Team Manager, left, and Team Ireland Senior Show Jumping Team Manager Rodrigo Pessoa, right.
Visionary in Sport. Amid the nonstop, multidimensional climate of international show jumping sport, it can be easy to get lost in all the results, issues and topics of conversation.
So when we introduced this new category for 2017 in the NoelleFloyd.com Awards, it was with the aim to identify those who have seen through the noise and made an impact with clear leadership that has left a positive impact on the sport.
With 52% of the vote, Rodrigo Pessoa leads the way, although each person nominated deserves recognition.
For Pessoa, 2017 became the year that he transitioned into a completely new role, embraced it, and succeeded. The veteran, Olympic gold medalist and decorated international rider accepted the position of Ireland’s international show jumping team coach. Leading a group of riders that are among the most successful individually but in recent years has had trouble shining as a nation presented plenty of special challenges. Coming off the heels of a tumultuous 2015 Championship that cut Ireland out of the 2016 Olympics, Pessoa entered the picture with clear goals and respectful leadership. And it worked. Team Ireland won the 2017 European Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden, with the riders crediting Pessoa’s guidance as a major factor in their success.
Also nominated in this category were Stephen Conter, Lisa Roskens and Eleonora Ottaviani.
A voice willing to speak up and put their neck out their is always needed when unpopular decisions are handed down from the governing body, and in April, Stephen Conter was that voice when he wrote a strongly worded open letter lambasting the pay to play changes that the FEI had implemented.
A few weeks earlier in March, Lisa Roskens was able to breathe a big sigh of relief and allow herself to soak in the success of the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup Finals, held in Omaha, Nebraska under the direction of her Omaha Equestrian Foundation. Scoring a home run in their very first time hosting the Finals is almost unheard of, yet Roskens made it look easy. We caught up with Roskens in September about that success and what’s up to in the future. You can read that interview here.
As director of the International Jumping Riders Club, Eleonora Ottaviani is well known to the riders at the top of the sport. Her quiet, constant behind the scenes work to advocate for the riders and find working solutions to any number of issues is to be applauded. As she said earlier month at the IJRC’s General Assembly: “the Club is working with and not against the FEI, the National Federations and the Organizers. It is true that sometimes there are different opinions, but the club believes that we are “on the same boat” and the IJRC will try to find a reasonable solution, doing its best for the sport, working together with FEI, National Federations and Organizers.”