British Equestrian is delighted to announce that Helen Nicholls will join as Performance Director in early May to provide leadership of our elite talent World Class Programmes, funded by UK Sport and the National Lottery, and senior championship teams in the disciplines of dressage, eventing, jumping and para-dressage. With over 20 years in elite sport, Helen has extensive experience working with athletes and support teams to provide the correct environment for the delivery of results.
Richard (Dickie) Waygood MBE, who successfully acted as interim Performance Director through the Tokyo Games and lead the teams to one of their most successful Games performances ever, will take on the new role of Technical Director, alongside his position of Eventing Performance Manager.
As an athlete, Helen’s focus was on water-based sport with a successful career in windsurfing where she represented Britain, finishing on the podium in international regattas and claiming multiple national titles. After narrowly missing out on Olympic selection for Sydney in 2000, she turned her focus back to studying, going on to complete her degree in Applied Sports Performance at Liverpool John Moores which led her to a decade-long career with British Sailing (the Royal Yachting Association) in roles covering sport management and coach development in pathway and elite programmes.
An experienced coach herself, Helen then went to UK Sport as a Performance Advisor where she worked across a number of sports, equestrian included, to facilitate maximum medal return for the investment into each governing body. This role gave her extensive insight into the requirements of a successful performance programme and how to achieve excellence in sport in each unique context. In 2018, her role reversed, and she went into the increasingly popular Paralympic sport of Boccia as Performance Director, leading the team to Tokyo where the highlight was the amazing individual gold medal for David Smith MBE.
“I feel privileged and excited to be given this opportunity to join British Equestrian and I look forward to building on the outstanding success in Tokyo,” commented Helen. “My role will be to lead the WCP team, work closely with Richard Waygood, the Performance Managers, athletes, coaches, and the wider staff to continue delivering successful programmes which enable riders to fulfil their tremendous potential.
“My time with boccia over the past four years has been hugely rewarding and I would like to convey my deepest appreciation for all at Boccia UK for their commitment, support and drive to be the best every single day and I am sure that the team will go on to thrive and prosper as we move towards Paris.”
A horse owner in the past, Helen has a passion for the sport and is very aware of the unique challenges equestrian sport faces. “Having worked in elite sport for over two decades at both UK Sport and British Sailing I am very much looking forwards to joining equestrian, a programme which is hugely respected, with committed, dedicated and highly talented athletes. I’m excited to be working alongside the existing team, and with Dickie in particular, to provide the riders and community of elite equestrian with the platform to flourish and deliver success in Paris and beyond.”
Richard Waygood has been involved with British Equestrian’s World Class Programme for over 12 years and has been integral to its success over the last three Games cycles. He agreed to take on the Performance Director role and lead the effort through Tokyo on the basis it was an interim appointment. With his extensive knowledge and skillset, he’s the ideal candidate for the new role of Technical Director to advise and support the Performance Director, as they work in tandem to create and deliver a successful programme.
Dickie said; “I’ve worked closely with Helen [Nicholls] previously during her time with UK Sport and as a fellow Performance Director in the run up to and during the Tokyo Paralympics and her credentials are exceptionally strong. She understands elite sport programmes and how to deliver results which is key, as is a solid relationship with UK Sport and other key partners, which Helen can provide. I believe that the Technical Director role will give our programme a new dimension and with Helen and myself, plus our outstanding group of support staff, working with our immensely talented athletes and horses, it’s never been a more exciting time for us.”
British Equestrian’s Chief Executive, Jim Eyre, added; “A rigorous recruitment campaign brought forward some exceptionally competent candidates but throughout the process, each panel who met with Helen were impressed with her knowledge, experience and ability to work in complex environments. We’re grateful for the stability and leadership provided by Dickie to see us through two very successful Tokyo Games and to retain him in a new role alongside Helen really is a boon for equestrian sport. Paris is on the horizon and the World Championships later this year provide us with our first chance to secure qualification which will be our primary objective – I look forward to working with Helen, Dickie and the World Class Programme staff and athletes to make it happen.”