Rodrigo Pessoa leaves Irish team to focus on riding at Olympics

Rodrigo Pessoa is to step down as senior performance director of Ireland’s showjumping team in order to pursue a place jumping for Brazil at Tokyo 2020.

Joe Reynolds, chairman of Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), said they recognised that representing your country at the Olympics was one of the “highest honours in sport” and wished Rodrigo “the very best” in his campaign.

“From an Irish perspective, his decision to seek a position on the Brazilian team, which will compete against Team Ireland in Tokyo, makes it impossible for him to continue as senior high performance jumping director,” he said.

Chairman of HSI’s senior high performance jumping committee Gerry Mullins paid tribute to Rodrigo’s expert guidance of the Irish squad, under which they have both qualified for the Olympics and secured a brilliant win the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona last month.

“He has played an historic part in the management of the team, was an integral part in the success of the team, and has been a valued and respected colleague during his term. We are all incredibly grateful to him for that,” he said.

Rodrigo Pessoa with the Irish team at the European Championships in Gothenburg. Credit: Peter Nixon

Ronan Murphy, HSI’s chief executive added that the governing body was “genuinely disappointed” that Rodrigo would not be able to continue in his role.

“As a six-time Olympian, Rodrigo had an undeniable record to offer his home nation. Opportunities like that don’t come up very often and we wish him very well,” he said.

The Brazilian’s consultancy agreement expires at the end of November and HSI will shortly begin its process to appoint a replacement, whose tenure will include taking Ireland through the Tokyo games.

Rodrigo said he had enjoyed his three years as Ireland’s team manager and was “proud” to have helped them attain Olympic qualification.

“I will always be available as a support to the team in future,” he said. “I would like to thank the entire high performance committee and all the team at HSI. Last but not least, I have to thank all the riders and owners for their participation.”

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In a statement on his website, Rodrigo explained that he left with a “feeling of fulfillment” having accomplished his primary mission to qualify for the games.

“On the road to qualification we picked up a European title that had eluded us for over 15 years,” he said. “I am very proud that we used more than 30 Irish riders in Nations Cups over the last three years. That is something not many countries can say they have done.”

He added that while he was not sure who his successor would be, he genuinely wished them “all the luck in the world”.

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