Hans Günter Winkler, a show-jumping legend, has died on the night of 15 to 16 July due to a cardiac arrest. Aged 91, the German was the single most successful rider in the history of the Olympics, having won five gold medals, as well as a silver and a bronze.
Winkler has made fame for himself with the mare Halla, which he once described as “a mixture of genius and crazy goat.” The German Olympic committee originally wanted to train her for eventing, but found her too fickle to compete in multiple equestrian events. Yet Winkler, a seasoned horse trainer, rode her to victories in contests around the world, including back-to-back world championships.
One of Winkler and Halla’s most dramatic competitions was at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, when the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, as the horses were not allowed to enter Australia due to quarantine restrictions. Winkler suffered a pulled groin muscle at the penultimate obstacle in the first round of the individual event. Despite not being able to ride properly, he pressed on and he and Halla won the individual gold as well as sharing in the team gold.
Winkler, who retired from show jumping in 1986, has also won the individual title at the world championships twice.