Rodrigo Pessoa announced Nov. 15 that he is stepping down as the high performance director for the Irish show jumping team.
“As I close this adventure as high performance manager of the Irish team, I have a feeling of fulfillment in having accomplished my initial mission with them,” Pessoa wrote on his website. “The qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games was our target, and we reached it together as a wide but united squad. On the road to that qualification we picked up a European title that had eluded us for over 15 years. I am very proud to say that we used more than 30 Irish riders in Nations Cup over the last three years. That is something that not many countries can say they have done. Ireland is a nation with [a] vast pool of talented international riders, and I am proud to have worked with them during my tenure.”
Pessoa was appointed to coach the Irish team in March 2017, and under his direction, the team won the 2017 FEI European Championships (Sweden). Pessoa signed a one-year contract extension in December of last year. The team earned a berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games—for the first time since 2004—in October by winning the 2019 Longines FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain).
Pessoa, 46, is a six-time Olympian and World Games competitor. He won the FEI World Cup Final three times with Baloubet Du Rouet and earned individual gold at the 2004 Olympic Games (Greece) and the 1998 FEI World Equestrian Games (Italy). He did not renew his contract with Horse Sport Ireland in order to pursue competing in Tokyo for his native Brazil.
“Rodrigo has been an integral part of the successful securing of Team Ireland’s place at Tokyo,” Ronan Murphy, Horse Sport Ireland’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We are genuinely disappointed that he won’t be able to continue as our High Performance Director for what we hope will be a very successful performance by Team Ireland at the Summer Olympics. However, we totally understand the draw of representing his country and participating as a Brazilian athlete in Tokyo. As a six time Olympian, Rodrigo has an undeniable record to offer his home nation. Opportunities like that don’t come up very often and we wish him very well.”
Pessoa’s contract ends at the end of November, and Horse Sport Ireland has begun the search for his replacement.