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Rodrigo Pessoa: “We had a job to do and we got it done”

Saturday, 26 August 2017
European Championships 2017

Today’s guest blogger from the European Championships is no other than Ireland’s gold-winning Team Manager Rodrigo Pessoa, who tells us all about the adventures and mountain climbing it has taken to get to the top of the podium in Gothenburg.

“Our Friday actually started the night before, when we all had dinner together. The night before the first round of the Nations Cup I gave my riders a free evening; we were not together. We did the first round, and then the night before the second round we sat down – you cannot do it every day, then it just gets too much. But before Friday, we talked about how we thought the class was going to evolve and what we had to do – so we were speaking about the lights and the horses. 

On Friday, there was of course a lot of time to kill because the class was at 20.30 in the evening. All my riders rode on the flat at different times – I think the most important thing at a championship is not to change your normal routine, so one guy rode at twelve o’clock, another one at four o’clock and another at six o’clock – because that is what they are accustomed to do and I gave them that freedom. Some of them went to the gym, some just walked around and then we met up in the stables around seven o’clock, before we went to walk the course. We did the course walk, again everyone on their own and then one time all together and then we watched the first five-six riders go. I had dinner on my own, because no one wanted to eat, they all went off to do their thing – they were sticking to their routines. 

As the class started, we knew what we had to do. With three clear rounds, we would have a medal for sure. So, it was important that the first round set them off good and after that we had a bit of time because we did not have anyone in the second rotation. As things evolved a little bit, the wind came into our direction with the faults from the other teams. It was a crucial round from Denis that really put us in there with the big chance and by the time I left Denis and went down to help Cian, we knew exactly what was expected from us. Cian was warming up already and he was confident and the horse was jumping well. I think everything worked out our way, we were not lucky – they were all solid rounds and so we came out on top. 

We had three goals at the beginning of the year; the European Championships, maintaining our position in the Super League and the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. It is really special that we now reached our first goal: We can build on this for the next year, where our big objective is the WEG in Tryon and to qualify for the Olympics. What I told my team before coming here, was that we are going to go and not change a thing in our routine. We are just going to go and do what we do – only better. And that is what my team did: They were really good, focused and really determined – they had a job to do and they got it done.

The human side of this is really special for me; that we created this bond and now we have this in common, that we lived this experience together. I think it is an advantage for us, that I have been in their position. The thing is, I understand what my riders are going through. All the pressure is something that I am used to. It doesn’t make it easier for me, though: There is just as much time to kill for me as there is for them and I was also feeling a little restless. Once they are in the ring, it is up to them – and that is hard, it is something I am still having difficulties with. As a rider, your destiny is in your hands when you are riding but as a coach I can only leave them at the in-gate.

All my riders are strong personalities, but so I’m I. My management is not one of dictatorship – I want to be their partner in this. Now that our new system worked, I think it will be even easier to aim towards new goals. And I firmly believe, that if you are not strong, you cannot achieve what we achieved last night. You have to be strong – it was a big mountain for us to climb!


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