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Ireland selects Rodrigo Pessoa’s replacement to lead jumping team to Tokyo

Michael Blake has been appointed at Horse Sport Ireland’s showjumping team manager following the departure of Rodrigo Pessoa.

Mr Blake has been a key part of Irish showjumping’s senior squad in a number of roles, including serving as chef d’equipe at 18 international shows and assistant team manager at a further 43. He has also held the positions of Team Ireland senior development jumping manager and was previously involved in the management of Ireland’s medal-winning youth squads.

His official job title is high performance jumping director, incorporating the role of chef d’equipe, for the Irish senior showjumping team.

Mr Pessoa announced his departure in November, owing to the fact he is aiming to ride at the Tokyo 2020 Games for Brazil. Under his three-year tenure, Ireland won European team gold at the 2017 championships and secured their first team place at an Olympics in 16 years with a brilliant victory in the Longines FEI Nations Cup final at Barcelona in October.

After his appointment, Michael Blake said he is “delighted” to take on the role.

It is a great honour and indeed a big responsibility to be entrusted with the task of being sole selector of our Olympic team,” he said, adding he will have back-up from many within HSI while he gives “all our top athletes every opportunity to prove themselves for selection”.

“I also want to place on record my appreciation of the owners who make their world-class horses available to Team Ireland,” he said.

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“This 32nd Olympiad is special for Ireland as we send three teams to compete in dressage, eventing and jumping.

“It is important that Ireland goes as a team to contest the three individual and three team equestrian competitions and we support each other’s disciplines in Tokyo.

“Over the course of the last three years and throughout the Olympic qualification process as assistant to Rodrigo Pessoa, a great team spirit was established among the 39 riders who competed for Team Ireland in showjumping.

“I want to maintain that team spirit and work it to our advantage. Ireland are the FEI Nations Cup champions, so we travel to Tokyo as real contenders.”

He thanked HSI for its “speedy but very extensive and exhaustive appointment process”.

My job starts today to prepare us for the Olympics while ensuring the development of our athletes and our sport is maintained and improved,” he said.

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