Rio 2016 Olympic Jumping champion Nick Skelton (GBR) added another major accolade to his collection tonight when he was declared the winner of the top prize at the prestigious 2016 FEI Awards gala dinner in Tokyo (JPN), in the presence of guest of honour, FEI Honorary President, HRH Princess Haya.
Nick Skelton won the coveted FEI Best Athlete honour at the “Oscars of the equestrian world” presented in association with the FEI’s top partner Longines, at the Park Tower Hotel. The FEI Awards celebrate the excellence, commitment, dedication and courage of those in equestrian sport, and the glittering ceremony also saw Nick’s groom Mark Beever (GBR) declared winner of the FEI Best Groom award.
Individual Olympic Jumping gold medallist at Rio 2016 with the great horse Big Star, Nick Skelton began riding at the age of 18 months. In 1975 he took team silver and individual gold at the FEI European Jumping Championships for Juniors. At senior European level, he has won three gold, three silver and three bronze medals with the British team over a 26-year time period. In 1980 he competed in the Alternative Olympics in Rotterdam (NED) where he was a member of the British silver medal team. At the age of 54, Skelton was part of Britain’s gold medal team at the London 2012 Olympic Games and finally claimed individual gold in Rio, at his seventh Olympic Games.
Skelton broke his neck in September 2000 which could have ended his career, but after retiring in 2001 he recovered and began competing again in 2002. He has also had a hip replacement and two knee operations.
“I would like to thank the FEI for this most fabulous award”, he 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.”
In recognition of outstanding efforts in what has been another exceptional sporting year, the ceremony kick-started with the presentation of the Longines Rising Star award going to Sönke Rothenberger (GER), an award honouring the pursuit of excellence and rising talent for a person aged 14 to 21. Along with his FEI award, Sönke Rothenberger was also presented with a Longines Conquest Classic watch.
Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla took home the Against All Odds award, while the FEI Solidarity award went to the Morocco National Federation/SA Charif Moulay Abdellah Alaoui, President of the Royal Moroccan Federation for Equestrian Sports. This award was accepted on behalf of the Federation by the Moroccan Secretary General, Badr Fakir.
Hosted by joint Master of Ceremonies Liz Price (GBR) and the Athens 2004 Olympic hammer champion Koji Murofushi (JPN), now Sports Director for Tokyo 2020, the FEI Awards gala ceremony was watched by more than 300 distinguished guests, National Federation representatives, FEI partners, VIPs and international media.
“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”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “These talented and dedicated athletes and individuals constantly inspire future generations of athletes, and not just equestrian athletes, and can literally change lives and communities. The FEI is very proud to honour and acknowledge these achievements.” Longines' Vice President and Head of International Marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli, who presented the Longines Rising Star award during tonight’s ceremony, said: It is my great pleasure to be here this evening and to be a part of the FEI Awards’ celebration of these great equestrian heroes. As we have seen here tonight, all of the winners have shown what hard work and dedication are all about. They are champions that we can be very proud of.
“On behalf of Longines, I extend my warmest congratulations to tonight’s winners, and in particular our Longines Rising Star, Sönke Rothenberger. It’s very exciting to see all these incredible people pursue their dreams and continue to be great ambassadors for their sport.”
The five categories in the FEI Awards 2016 attracted a record number of nominations from the public, giving the judging panel an extremely hard task to select the final winners. Chaired by Japanese Olympic Committee President and FEI Honorary Vice-President Tsunekazu Takeda, the judging panel also included the FEI President Ingmar de Vos (BEL), Longines Vice President, Head of International Marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli (SUI), last year’s best athlete Boyd Exell (AUS), President of the Swaziland National Federation Glenda Warburton (SWZ), FEI Awards Against All Odds winner in 2010 Angelika Trabert (GER) and British television presenter Liz Price.
The evening’s celebrations had opened with a presentation made by Juan-Carlos Capelli to the FEI President Ingmar De Vos of a limited series timepiece from the Longines equestrian collection, the Longines Equestrian Pocket Watch Horses Trio 1911. This special presentation was made on behalf of the Swiss watchmaker to celebrate their 105-year commitment to the discipline of Jumping. The exclusive 18 carat rose gold timepiece will be permanently showcased in the state-of-the-art interactive gallery at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne (SUI).