Exciting changes have been made to the ‘team behind the team’ to bring leadership and stability for the sports of dressage, eventing, jumping and para-dressage ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The British Equestrian Federation has announced four established names, with nine than 70 years combined experience at Championship level, have been promoted into roles within the National Lottery and UK Sport funded Equestrian World Class Programme.
Part of the World Class Programme leadership team since 2010, Richard Waygood MBE will take on the role of Performance Director alongside his duties as Eventing Performance Manager for the period up to and including Tokyo. Richard has an impressive equestrian CV with an illustrious military career which culminated as Riding Master of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and was previously Dressage Performance Manager before moving disciplines in 2016. Under his leadership, the dressage and eventing teams have amassed some 23 championship medals.
On his appointment Richard said; “I had no hesitation in taking on this challenge. Once every four years the ultimate sporting occasion arrives and it’s everyone’s ambition to be involved and to positively influence medal-winning performances. We have a professional and dedicated team of riders, owners, grooms and support staff who are more than up to the task at hand and if I can play my part in channelling ambition towards performance and ensure the athletes are in prime position for success, then it’ll be mission accomplished.”
Sophie Thomas, part of the World Class Programme team since 2001, will also be promoted to the role of Programme Leader to support Richard in managing the complex logistics and planning required to get 16 horses and around 100 humans to Japan and back to compete over the six week Olympic and Paralympic period.
Sophie has looked after the operations side of Championship teams at Olympic, World and European level for over 16 years and as such has extensive experience. “Olympic and Paralympic Games bring their own unique challenges and Tokyo being about 6000 miles away adds to the complexity,” commented Sophie. “At the heart of my
role is ensuring everything outside the competition arena runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible so the athletes can focus on performing on the field of play, the owners have a fantastic Championship experience, and the environment for grooms and support staff allows them to concentrate purely on supporting the athletes, both human and equine. Planning is already well-advanced in conjunction with the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association and, come the summer, I have every confidence we’ll be Tokyo-ready.”
Sophie will have a new team member to work alongside her and Lucy Phillips, who’ll be working on her second Olympic sortie, in Alex van Tuyll who has supported teams in the past but will now have a formal role. A Director of the Event Horse Owners Association, Alex has been involved with Equestrian Team GBR both as a groom for eventer William Fox-Pitt and on the administration side, and will work with Sophie and Lucy closely to manage logistics during the build-up to the Games and at Games time.
Finally, Winnie Murphy has been seconded from British Dressage in a job-share role to cover the Head of Communications position with her time divided between both organisations. Winnie has worked with the national and equestrian media for nearly 25 years and Tokyo will be the seventh Games she’s had involvement with. With equestrian sport firmly among the favourites for medals, she’ll work extensively with the media to tell the stories behind our riders and share the message of how diverse and inclusive equestrianism is.
BEF’s Interim Chief Executive Iain Graham commented; “There has been a period of change in the World Class Programme staff in recent months and our priority is to settle the team and ensure our athletes can focus on performance. These four appointments will bring the much needed stability and support for our established team and further strengthen the expertise to ensure all athletes, human and equine, are fully prepared and effectively managed to create a positive environment for medal winning performances.”