David O’Connor delivered an emotional keynote address this afternoon at the USEA Annual Meeting, focusing on the concept of “One Sport.” “What’s so valuable about the sport as a whole? When you’re talking about our life here — this special feeling that this place creates — we all feel the same away about our horses.” It’s that love for horses that ties us all together, making us all fundamentally the same at our core, David said. “There’s no difference between the Olympic rider and the adult amateur. I’m really adamant that this is one sport.”
Ultimately, all riders understand the pressure and drive to succeed and achieve their goals, David said, meaning we’re not so different from one another. “There are those that say High Performance is different, that the goals are different, and I disagree completely,” David said. “I think the goals are the same. Really, what we’re looking for is to start a program we can all be proud of. That is something that I’m adamant about.”
While touching moments peppered David’s speech, he also included a few funny stories he experienced this year in his 255 days on the road in his new role of head coach for Team USA. David made it clear that Joanie Morris, the USEF managing director of eventing, has been instrumental in helping him do his job, but she truly went above and beyond when he found himself locked inside a bathroom mere minutes before the first U.S. rider show jumped at Pau.
“If you’ve seen in the movies people kicking down doors, that does not work,” David said to a lot of laughter. In a truly humbling moment, David had to call Joanie to help get him out of the bathroom. “This is life on the road,” he joked. Broken bathroom doors aside, it’s been a promising year as David works to build a program that can land Team USA back on the podium, and he made it clear he intends for that to happen next year: “Our plan is to win a medal in Normandy.”
In one of the bigger tear-jerker moments during his speech, David said he was so honored when Jimmy Wofford told him “you have lit a candle” in regards to the new High Performance program he’s implemented. “A candle in the end is just a release in energy,” David said. “What we’re trying to do with this High Performance program is light a candle, hold it high and let that energy flow over the whole organization.” Go DOC.