Pessoa aims to put Ireland back on podium
New showjumping manager Rodrigo Pessoa yesterday laid out his plan to take Ireland to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Brazilian showjumping star said this summer's European Championships in Gothenburg will be a "live test" for attempted qualification at the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, USA.
"Nations Cups are pivotal for us in preparing for the WEG," Pessoa said after announcing that Kevin Babington (Shorapur), Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Shane Breen (Golden Hawk), Denis Lynch (All Star) and Michael Duffy (Belcanto) have been selected for the first big hurdle of the season, the points-earning Nations Cup in France on May 12.
Pessoa (44) will manage the top Irish teams while Michael Blake and his wing-man Taylor Vard will continue to look after the developmental sides. "It's two-nil to Michael!" Pessoa quipped, referring to the double of victories achieved by Blake's sides at Wellington and Ocala, USA, earlier this year.
Son of legendary showjumper Nelson Pessoa, Rodrigo knows the taste of major success himself, winning the individual world title in Rome in 1998 at the age of just 28, clinching three back-to-back World Cup titles along with over 70 Grand Prix victories, and awarded the individual Olympic gold medal lost by Cian O'Connor in 2004.
"The results for team Ireland individually in the last couple of years have been very good, but they've underperformed in Championships, dramatically, which is not good, and this is why I think I'm here, to try to solve this gap. And I really hope that I can do that," he said yesterday.
"When you think of a country like Ireland, it's a horse country with great riders and great depth, but the last time they were on a podium was 2001 - that's a long time ago and it's something we need to change. And I felt when I spoke with many of the riders that they want change as well".