Olympic gold medalist and eventing leader David O’Connor has been presented with the General Douglas MacArthur Exemplary Service Award by the United States Olympic Endowment.
He is thus far the only equestrian to receive the award, which recognises individuals whose endeavours have “advanced the ideals of the Olympic Movement and whose commitment to relevance is reflected in a legacy of dedication to the service of others”.
O’Connor received the award at a ceremony last weekend, hosted in Colorado Springs at the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
Currently the FEI Eventing Committee Chair, during his riding career O’Connor won individual gold at the Sydney 2000 Games with Custom Made, and was also a member of the bronze medal-winning team with Giltedge. The pair were victorious at the 1996 Atlanta Games, winning team silver. O’Connor also partnered with Giltedge to win the team gold medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2002 in Jerez. Representing his country at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, O’Connor won individual silver and team gold medals.
He retired from international competition in 2004, serving as President of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for the next eight years. As the former International Technical Advisor to the Canadian national eventing team, he led the team to silver medals at the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games. O’Connor was inducted into the United States Eventing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
Recently re-elected at the FEI General Assembly 2021 to serve a further four years as FEI Eventing Committee Chair, a position he has held since 2017, O’Connor has worn many hats since his original appointment to the Committee from 2004 to 2008. He would go on to serve as FEI Group IV Chairman from 2008-2011, representing the interests of the North and Central American region on the FEI Board, and play an important role in the development of the FEI’s processes and policies to minimise risk factors in Eventing, as chairman of the FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group. Formed in 2016, the group focussed on coordinating risk management initiatives on a global basis, exploring and proposing ideas for the betterment of risk management.
FEI President Ingmar De Vos congratulated O’Connor on receiving the prestigious award “for recognition of his dedication, sporting prowess and leadership in equestrian sport”.
“A true champion and horseman, both his Olympic performances led him to podium finishes winning team silver in Atlanta in 1996 and individual gold and team bronze at the Sydney 2000 Games. David is an invaluable asset and pillar in the equestrian community and beyond.
“His tireless work with the FEI and focus on risk management has helped break down barriers and positively impact the sport, helping to drive the necessary changes for eventing that are in the best interests of the athlete, horse, and owner. There is no one more committed to the sport, or more deserving of this award and recognition”.