Hans Günter Winkler has died in Warendorf at the age of 91.
Five Olympic gold medals, a total of seven Olympic medals, two World Championship titles and 105 Nations Cup performances –Hans Günter Winkler was doubtless a unique personality on the show jumping scene and beyond. He encouraged people: in the post-war era, he sprang up as someone to be cheered – and he was cheered all over the world. “Starting for Germany has always been an honour for me“, as he used to point out.
The most successful show jumping rider ever had celebrated one of his first top level international success aboard a Holsteiner: with Orient (title) by Heino-Nenndorf (Claus Thormählen, Neuendorf) he won the Madrid World Championship in 1955. Aboard Romanus (left) by Ramzes-Heinzelmann (Anke Schuldt, Moorhusen) Hans-Günter Winkler won individual bronze at the Aachen Europeans in 1961 and silver in London one year later. In 1972, he steered Torphy by Reinald xx-Meisterspringer (Fritz Westphal, Rickling) to team gold at the Munich Olympics. Four years later, the combination won team gold in Montreal. But Halla, according to Hans Günter Winkler “a mixture of whizz and weirdo” was the horse he made equestrian history with, as Hessian mare Halla by Oberst helped Winkler achieve immortality as a sportsman. At the 1956 Stockholm Olympics, Winkler sustained a severe groin strain during the first Nations Cup round. But he rode on, securing the day‘s only clear round for Germany, resulting in team gold as well as individual gold for Halla and Winkler, a feat known as “the Stockholm miracle”. Halla and Winkler went on to become German Champions, won the Derby, the World Championship, and again the Olympics. Seven other horses helped him collect results at major championships at European, World Championship and Olympic level.
13 July 1986 saw him performed his last lap of honour at Aachen, retiring from active competition after a career spanning almost 35 years. HGW became a trainer to the German team together with Herbert Meyer and was Chef d‘Equipe at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. In late 1988, Winkler took over as head of the Warendorf DOKR jumping stable. In 1991, at 65, he founded a new company: HGW-Marketing. He organized horse shows, acquired sponsors, and worked as a business consultant. Moreover, the father-of-two also ran a Warendorf competition stable along with his fourth wife, Debby, an American killed in an accident in 2011.
For all his determination, Winkler never lost sight of the bigger picture. He launched measures to promote young show jumping riders like for example the HGW young rider championship and the Golden Saddle. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to equestrianism, Winkler had been awarded the FN honour badge in gold with laurels, Olympic rings and brilliants as well as the Riders Cross in gold, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit (Knight Commander’s Cross), won Sports Personality of the Year twice and Sports Personality of the Decade. This is just an outline his honours and awards selected to emphasize that Hans Günter Winkler was arguably his time’s most dedicated, influential and successful horseman.
Fritz Thiedemann (left) and Hans Günter Winkler(right)