Bill Steinkraus, Equestrian Who Made Olympic History, Dies at 92

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Bill Steinkraus riding the horse Sinjon in Aachen, Germany, in 1962. USET Archive

Bill Steinkraus, one of America’s most celebrated horse-show riders and the country’s first to win an Olympic individual gold medal in any equestrian discipline, died on Nov. 29 at his home in the Noroton section of Darien, Conn. He was 92.

His death was announced on Thursday by the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.

Widely considered one of the greatest riders in the history of equestrian sports, Steinkraus made all six United States Olympic teams from 1952 through 1972, missing only the 1964 Games in Tokyo when his horse pulled up lame at the last moment.

He won his record-making Olympic individual gold medal, in show jumping, in Mexico City in 1968. He also won team silver medals in Rome in 1960 and in Munich in 1972, and a team bronze in 1952 at Helsinki. His American team finished fifth in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia.

His gold medal came aboard Snowbound, a strong-willed 9-year-old gelding. “I like to think of him as sort of a George Bernard Shaw horse,” Steinkraus told The New York Times. “He has his own opinion about everything.”

William Steinkraus – Individual Gold Medalist Mexico City Olympics 1968 Video by Bernie Traurig

Through his feats in the Olympics and in other international events, Steinkraus, a Yale graduate and an accomplished violinist, drew admirers from around the world.

“American riders respected him for his horsemanship, and the Europeans were surprised that someone as cultured, educated and intelligent could be an American rider,” Bertalan de Nemethy, the longtime coach of the United States team and himself an elegant former Hungarian cavalry officer, once said.

Source: The New York Times