William Steinkraus, the chairman emeritus of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation and the first American to win an Olympic individual gold medal in any equestrian sport, died Nov. 29 at the age of 92.
Although he was a pillar of the U.S. show jumping squad for decades, Bill’s accomplishments weren’t limited to riding. He was a serious violinist, his insight made him a perceptive television commentator, he wrote several books and was an exemplary editor, as well as heading the USET for years.
“He was a renaissance man. He knew something about everything,” his 1960 Olympic teammate George Morris said today after learning about the death of the friend that he called his mentor.
“I learned so many things from Billy. He was a great riding teacher on a high level,” George commented.
Beyond that, Bill was “impeccably mannered, impeccably dressed,” George continued, noting he was meticulous not only in his horsemanship, but in everything he did.
Bonnie Jenkins, executive director of the USET Foundation, noted, “He was one of the original founders and leaders of the USET and also the foundation; somebody who I think every generation still looks up to. He was a true icon and someone we were so proud to have representing this country.”
During the years when the U.S. rose to prominence internationally in show jumping, his honors included the King George V Cup in 1955, followed by the German Championship in 1959.
A series of Nations’ Cup triumphs preceded and followed his glorious 1968 individual gold with Snowbound in Mexico City.
He won more than 100 grands prix in his career and three Olympic team medals. Among them was a bronze at Helsinki in 1952 as the fledgling civilian squad took over international competition responsibilities from the Army. For the next 20 years, he was captain of the U.S. team until he retired in 1972.
The graduate of Yale University, who served in Burma during World War II, spent several years after the war in concert management before working on Wall Street as a security analyst. He went on to the publishing industry, where his employment included being the editor in chief at Winchester Press.
Bill played key roles in governance of equestrian sport. He became the president of the USET, then its chairman and finally, chairman emeritus. He also served for eight years as a member of the FEI (international equestrian federation) Bureau and president of the FEI World Cup. He was an Olympic TV commentator at Montreal, Los Angeles and Seoul and several World Championships as well as serving as an Olympic judge at Barcelona.
He was one of the first inductees of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, and a member of the New York Sports, Madison Square Garden, National Horse Show, Washington Horse Show and Fairfield County Sports Halls of Fame.
Bill is survived by three sons, Eric, Philip and his wife Stefanie, and Edward and his wife Beth and four grandchildren, Grace, Abigail , Griffin and Clark.
Services were private. Donation’s in Bill’s memory may be made to the USET Foundation, which can be reached at www.uset.org. A memorial service is being planned for the spring.