Olympic champion Nick Skelton has collected another accolade – winning the best athlete category of the FEI awards.
Nick’s groom Mark Beever (pictured with Nick and Big Star in Rio) was also among the winners at a gala dinner in Tokyo on 22 November, taking the best groom award.
“I would like to thank the FEI for this most fabulous award”, Nick said. “I’ve had an incredible year and this award makes it even better. I would like to thank the team that is behind me and Big Star for all their hard work and patience.”
The FEI said Mark received multiple nominations, more than anyone else in his category, from grooms, riders and “the wider equestrian community”.
“Beever is very well respected by his peers and his dedication to Big Star is beyond question, as he caters to his every need, ensuring the horse is happy and settled down before he looks after himself,” said an FEI spokesman.
Rodolpho Riskalla, who had intended to compete in the Olympic dressage for Brazil in Rio but contracted meningitis in 2015, was the winner of the “against all odds” award.
Rodolpho lost both feet and “most of his fingers” as a result of the bacterial infection.
With less than a year before the Games, Rodolpho learned to ride again with prosthetics, and represented his country in the Paralympics instead.
“To win the FEI awards, it’s like the Oscars, it’s like being a superstar”, he said. “But also, to win against all odds represents exactly what happened to me this last year.
“Before this I never believed a human being could be so strong and adapt so quickly.It’s something that’s come from inside, it’s like the Olympic spirit.”
Germany’s 22-year-old Sönke Rothenberger, who was on the gold medal-winning team in Rio, said he was “honoured” to win the rising star award, while the FEI solidarity category went to the Moroccan national federation, for its creation of “solid foundations for the development of the sport and related employment in the sport in Morocco, as well as increasing awareness and promotion of the sport nationally and regionally”.
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“The FEI awards are an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work of those who deserve the recognition, not just of our community but of the wider sports industry, and we’ve had five fantastic award-winners tonight”, said FEI president Ingmar De Vos.
“These talented and dedicated athletes and individuals constantly inspire future generations of athletes, not just equestrian athletes, and can literally change lives and communities. The FEI is very proud to honour and acknowledge these achievements.”