Gold medalist David O'Connor of The Plains continues to set equestrian records. The Virginia horseman was named Equestrian of the Year for an unprecedented second time and Sportsman of the Year at the USA Equestrian annual meeting in Lexington, Ky., last Friday.
O'Connor, 41, said he was surprised to be honored and "almost embarrassed" by so much recognition.
The next night, Betty Oare of Warrenton picked up the Grand Champion Amateur Owner-Hunter trophy with Estrella, a Dutch mare trained by her brother, Arthur Reynolds II.
Oare, 65, dominated the hard-fought division even though she missed seven weeks in middle of the competitive season with a shattered shoulder and broken ankle suffered in a freak schooling accident. After a quick recovery, she took grand championships at the Washington International and National horse shows.
Unlike Oare's honor, earned by points won in competition, O'Connor's was the result of votes by the USAE membership and the media. He was selected from among eight finalists drawn from different riding disciplines, and he shared the International Rider of the Year title with show jumper Peter Wylde.
O'Connor was also named Equestrian of the Year in 2000 after winning the individual three-day gold medal -- the first American to do so in 16 years -- with the best Olympic dressage ever registered.
The 2002 honor was based on his team World Equestrian gold medal in September at Jerez, Spain, and his lifetime work. That, and the fact that he was selected by his peers, was special for O'Connor.
"This year, the award was not wrapped around a single achievement," he said. "I was totally surprised when they called my name. When I look at past winners, I am overwhelmed. To be listed there with the heroes of the sport is a humbling experience."
The USAE executive committee selected the top sportsman and, according to Brian Sosby, USAE's managing editor of communications, based it on O'Connor's leadership in the organization and representation of the sport at home and abroad.
O'Connor and his wife, Karen, his Olympic riding partner, captured the attention of the national media when they rode together to win the Olympic team silver medal at Atlanta in 1996 and the bronze medal at Sydney in 2000.
In other USAE news:
* Nina Bonnie, daughter of the late Theodora Randolph of Upperville, Va., became the first child of a previous winner to be given the Jimmy Williams Lifetime Achievement Award, a prize shared with her husband, Ned, a lawyer in Louisville. This was the first time a couple has shared the award.
* On Jan. 13, USAE President Alan Balch received word the U.S. Equestrian Team had dropped a legal challenge before the U.S. Olympic Committee that claimed a right to serve as the national governing body. The USAE will retain that role.