Best of JN: In Memory of Bill Steinkraus — Two Great Performances

Bill Steinkraus and Fleet Apple. Photo courtesy of the USET Foundation

We were incredibly sorry to hear of the passing of US Show Jumping legend Bill Steinkraus. It was announced yesterday that the five-time Olympian died on November 29 at the age of 92. Among his contributions to the sport: winning four Olympic medals, and earning accolades as the first ever individual medalist in show jumping on behalf of the stars and stripes. (And it was gold, no less.)

But just as important, he was also a model citizen and World War Two veteran: He turned his Maclay Championship skills to serving his country as an enlisted soldier for the 124th Cavalry Regiment in the China-India-Burma zone from 1943 to 1945.

“At his 1952 Olympic Games debut in Helsinki, Steinkraus helped secure the bronze medal for Team Show Jumping,” explained the USET Foundation in a statement. “A few years later, he would go on to help the U.S. attain two silver medals in Team Show Jumping during the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Steinkraus also made history once again as the first American to win an individual gold medal in show jumping aboard Snowbound at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.”

In honor of Bill’s incredible career and life, I’d like to share two of my favorite performances by Bill aboard his most exceptional partner, Riviera Wonder, a horse with his own fascinating story to tell.

The first is one of the performances they’re most well known for: winning the Grand Prix of Aachen in 1959, a title which absolutely no one expected them to take that year or any year.

But I think the painfully brief but treasured footage from the Pan American Games in Chicago best demonstrates the trust and athleticism this pair possessed.

Bill was not only an amazing horseman, but a tremendous ambassador for the sport as a teacher, writer, broadcaster, and icon. His legend will long outlive his mortal life. We send our most heartfelt condolences to his friends and family who personally feel his loss.

Go Bill, and Go Jumping.