David O’Connor, an Olympic gold medalist and former president of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, was presented with the General Douglas MacArthur Exemplary Service Award in recognition of his continued service and commitment to equestrian sports within the Olympic and Paralympic movements. O’Connor is the first equestrian, and one of only five people, to receive the MacArthur award, which recognizes those individuals whose “commanding presence and endeavors have advanced the ideals of the Olympic Movement, and whose commitment to relevance is reflected in a legacy of dedication to the service of others.”
The award was presented to O’Connor by the U.S. Olympic Endowment at its annual award ceremony, held Dec. 8 at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“David has represented the equestrian community, both in competition as an athlete, and in governance as a leader, with confidence and complete dedication, always putting the best interests of our sport at the forefront of everything he does,” USEF CEO Bill Moroney said. “He is most deserving of this recognition, and his devotion to ensuring the continued success of the equestrian disciplines has been instrumental in the shaping our community and sport here in the United States and around the world.”
O’Connor served as the President of US Equestrian for eight years, leading the organization’s key strategic initiatives and growth from 2004-2012. O’Connor served two terms as President and transitioned into a Technical Advisor role on the administrative side of the sport. He worked with the Canadian Equestrian Federation for several years before transitioning into a similar role for the U.S. Eventing Team in 2013, which he held until 2017. In 2018, he became chair of the FEI Eventing Committee, leading and participating in global administration, governance, and safety initiatives in the sport.
As a two-time Olympian for the U.S. Eventing Team, O’Connor brought home a team silver at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, followed by individual gold and team bronze at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, cementing his name in the history books of the sport. He also secured an individual silver and team gold at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He led the U.S. to team bronze at the 1998 World Championships in Rome and team gold at the 2002 World Championships in Jerez, Spain. O’Connor was a three-time winner of the Kentucky Three-Day Event, one of the most prestigious individual eventing competitions in the world. He participated on almost every U.S. Eventing Team named between 1986 and 2004.
O’Connor was inducted into the U.S. Eventing Association Hall of Fame in 2009, along with the two horses on whom he achieved much of his international success, Giltedge and Custom Made, and was selected as US Equestrian’s Equestrian of the Year in 2000 and 2002.
He has continued to serve the equestrian community for more than four decades and is an instrumental leader in the growth and visibility of equestrian interests across the Olympic and Paralympic movements. He remains a coach and mentor to many athletes and facilitates successful competitions across the U.S., while supporting the long-term success of the U.S. Eventing program through further development of the pipeline and sport.