Australia’s Boyd Exell has been awarded the FEI’s Best Athlete Award for 2015. The successful driver was among five FEI Award winners to be recognised at a Longines sponsored glittering gala dinner in the Puerto Rican capital city of San Juan.
The “Oscars of the equestrian world” were presented on Friday night by Hollywood actress Bo Derek, who was Chair of the Jury for the FEI Awards 2015. She said it had been an honour to work with the FEI Awards.
“I am really excited to share in celebrations endorsing the commitment, dedication and hard work of these incredible people and this amazing sport, developing well-rounded and confident individuals. We hope that tonight will raise the profile of the sport even higher and motivate others to strive to achieve their goals,” Derek said.
Saluting the heroes of today and tomorrow for their outstanding contribution to equestrian sport, the FEI Awards 2015 – in association with the FEI’s Top Partner Longines and international fashion designer Reem Acra – applauded what has been an amazing 2015 sporting year, honouring the pursuit of excellence and rising talent.
The five winners, recognised for their significant achievements and willingness to demonstrate their passion for developing equestrian sport, are:
- Longines Rising Star – Jessica Mendoza (GBR)
- Reem Acra Best Athlete – Boyd Exell (AUS)
- Best Groom – Jose Eduardo (Eddie) Garcia Luna (USA)
- Against All Odds – Oriana Ricca Marmissolle (URU)
- FEI Solidarity – Les Chevaux qui pansent les plaies (Horses that heal wounds) (HAI)
The equestrian stars flew in from around the globe for a spectacular evening of glitz and glamour in the presence of more than 350 distinguished guests, including National Federation representatives, FEI partners, VIPs and international media. On stage with Bo Derek and no stranger to success himself, was Puerto Rican actor and celebrated radio host Braulio Castillo Jr, who served as master of ceremonies.
“We are here tonight to honour and acknowledge the dedication, commitment and passion of our athletes and other equestrian heroes,” FEI President Ingmar de Vos said.
“The FEI Awards recognise talent and excellence in all aspects of equestrian sport across the globe. We know that all tonight’s winners will continue to achieve distinction, whatever their involvement in our sport, and it is humbling to meet such incredible individuals, and celebrate their achievements.”
Longines Rising Star – Jessica Mendoza
2015 heralded a meteoric rise for the 19 year old Jumping athlete from Great Britain. She has produced consistently strong international performances, with more 10 wins in the past year and represented Great Britain at the 2015 European Championships, making her the youngest British senior championship team member for nearly 40 years. She played a key role in Britain securing Olympic qualification at the Championships in Aachen (GER), where they finish fourth overall, narrowly missing a team medal.
“I want to say a huge thank you to everyone, I really wasn’t expecting this”, she said. “I’m so proud to be here tonight and receive the Longines Rising Star award. I am honoured to be amongst such great sporting talent. Thank you to the FEI for organising this awards ceremony and to Longines for the encouragement and acknowledgement of our hard work and efforts throughout the year.”
Reem Acra Best Athlete – Boyd Exell
Boyd Exell has been at the top of his game for many years. Four times World Driving Champion, he has also been crowned FEI World Cup Champion no fewer than six times: in 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2013/2014 and is the current FEI World Cup™ Driving Champion after winning in Bordeaux (FRA) this year. In the new 2015/2016 season, he has won seven out of nine competitions, finishing second in the other two, and is currently world number one in the FEI Driving Rankings.
In addition to being the most successful four-in-hand driver over such a long stretch of time, he was also a dedicated member on the FEI Driving Committee for four years as a member for two years (2010-2012) and Deputy Chair from 2012-2014.
Best Groom – Jose Eduardo (Eddie) Garcia Luna
Eddie Garcia Luna has been a vital part of US Dressage for almost a decade. Groom for Olympic rider Steffen Peters, he has become a mentor and sounding board for other staff and grooms. ‘Above and beyond’ is automatic for Eddie because he expects it from himself every day, 365 days a year. Well respected by his peers, his employers, Federation staff and officials on the field, he embodies all the qualities of a superb groom and is also a great representative of our sport.
“Eddie has been working for us for 10 years”, Steffen Peters said. “Since Eddie and I are huge football fans, we always make comparisons to a touchdown when his horses win a major international competition. Tonight Eddie has won the Superbowl of the FEI Grooms award. The best part is, everybody loves Eddie! My sincere congratulations my friend.”
Against All Odds – Oriana Ricca Marmissolle
Endurance athlete Oriana Ricca Marmissolle was diagnosed with Phase III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, aged 17 and began extensive chemotherapy treatment in December 2013. Just eight days after her last chemotherapy session in May 2014 she was back competing. Not only has she gone on to compete in 11 Endurance events in Uruguay, France, Brazil and Chile, she continued her studies throughout her treatment and graduated from high school. Now, aged 19, she is in her first year of university studying veterinary science.
“All things that happen to us teach us something”, Oriana wrote in March 2014. “Now I found its real sense. We all have feelings but sometimes we don’t know how to express them. I can say that the disease I suffered didn’t come to kill me but to teach me. Cancer taught me that I am the same person, with another understanding of life. We should speak less and say more.
“Because of cancer I began to take time to speak seriously, to say the truth, ask for forgiveness whenever I am wrong. The battle was not only mine, but of all those who motivated me by giving the best of themselves unselfishly like my family, my friends, trainers, riders and Officials. I can say that with support, with humbleness, compromise and respect one can reach the most important achievements.”
FEI Solidarity – Les Chevaux qui pansent les plaies (Horses that heal wounds)
“From therapeutic riding to Para-equestrian” is the goal of Les Chevaux qui pansent les plaies or Horses that heal wounds. This incredible initiative is aimed at children affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and in particular, amputees. The project, which is run in cooperation with the Department of Psychology at the University of Haiti, has over 250 participants, and the top 10 athletes will continue to train and compete in Para-equestrian sport. This award-winning project combines social and humanitarian efforts with a sporting goal.