Triple Olympic gold medal winning eventer Richard Meade has died at the age of 76 after a battle with cancer.
Meade was diagnosed with cancer last October and had six weeks of treatment, His son, Harry, said last week that Richard had returned to hospital on Boxing Day after having Christmas at home with his family. He said he deteriorated quickly and was unable to withstand any further treatment. He died on Thursday, January 8.
Meade, a former member of the FEI Bureau, FEI Eventing Committee and Chairman of Group II (Northern Europe), was the first British athlete to win individual Eventing gold riding Laurieston, at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, after making his Olympic début in Tokyo eight years earlier.
In Munich, he also helped Great Britain to secure their second consecutive Olympic team gold medal following the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games where, in a tropical downpour in the jumping phase, he clinched the team title and secured fourth individually with a clear round on Cornishman V, a horse he had never sat on before.
Monmouthshire-born, Meade came from a family with a legacy of equestrian links. His parents were joint masters of the Curre Hounds at Itton near Chepstow and set up Britain’s first Connemara stud. Richard was educated at Lancing College and Cambridge University, where he read Engineering. He served in the 11th Hussars and worked in London before embarking on a life committed to the horse world.
In total he competed in four Olympic Games, as well as the substitute event at Fontainebleau (FRA) in 1980 during the partial boycott of the Moscow Games, and also carried the British flag at the closing ceremony of the Munich Olympics.
He went on to claim team silver at the FEI World Eventing Championships in 1974, and by 1981 had scored team gold three times for Great Britain at the European Championships (1967, 1971, 1981). In 1982, he won his final team eventing gold at the World Championships in Luhmühlen (GER). As an individual, he also won at Badminton in 1970 (The Poacher) and 1982 (Speculator III), and the Burghley Horse Trials in 1964 (Barberry).
His dedication to equestrian sport was life-long, and after retiring as an athlete he served as President of the British Equestrian Federation, chairman of the Federation’s British Horse Foundation and on the British Horse Society’s Council.
In 1972 he was voted BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year. The same year he came third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and was part of the team that won the Team of the Year award. In 1974 he was appointed an OBE for services to sport.
He served on the sport’s governing body in the UK (now British Eventing) continuously for over 30 years until after its reorganisation in 1996 when he was made a vice-president. He was an FEI Judge and Course Designer, roles that took him all over the world. He was also a well-respected judge of show horses. Latterly, Meade worked as an equestrian expert witness and continued to train riders from his home in South Gloucestershire.
He was also focused on developing eventing globally. As well as being a former member of the FEI Bureau and FEI Eventing Committee, and Chairman of Group II (Northern Europe), he was an FEI coach and judge and worked closely with the FEI and the Olympic Solidarity programme to develop Eventing at grass roots level.
“Richard Meade was a brilliant, courageous horseman with a strong sense of team responsibility, who became a household name in Great Britain,” said Hugh Thomas, Chairman of the Board of British Eventing and Director of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
“He was known for his reliability as a member of the British team at the height of its success, and as a rider who had the ability to get on any horse and immediately form a successful partnership with it. Most recently, he gained great pleasure from seeing his son, Harry, compete for the senior British team. Richard will be very sorely missed by many people around the world,” Thomas said.
“Richard at the height of his powers towered over the eventing world – his results far exceeded the innate ability of many of the horses he rode and he was at his very best when riding at the major events and Championships. Then he gave countless time and effort to supporting the sport he loved. His passing really does feel like the end of an era.”
Andrew Finding, Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation said: “Richard’s medal record speaks for itself. He was one of our country’s greatest ever Olympians and continued throughout his life to be an outstanding ambassador and sportsman – he cared deeply about the sport and we will miss him dearly.”
Catrin Norinder, FEI Director, Eventing & Olympic, said Meade was “the horseman of his day”, putting eventing on the map and the spotlight on the glamour and excitement of horse sport. “He inspired sports fans and athletes around the world at the Mexico and Munich Olympic Games, World and European Championships, and back on home soil at Badminton and Burghley, which continue to showcase international Eventing at its best.
“After competing, he continued to dedicate his life to equestrian sport and the equestrian community in many valuable roles, including giving his services as a volunteer at the London 2012 Olympic Games. We are all truly grateful for his loyalty and commitment, and immensely proud of his Olympic Eventing legacy.”
Meade is survived by his wife Angela and their three children – Team GBR member Harry, James and Lucy.
Richard Meade’s medal-winning record:
1968 Mexico City: Team Gold (Cornishman)
1972 Munich, Germany: Team Gold and Individual Gold (Laurieston)
1966 Burghley, Great Britain: Individual Silver (Barberry)
1970 Punchestown, Ireland: Team Gold and Individual Silver (The Poacher)
1974 Burghley, Great Britain: Team Silver (Wayfarer II)
1982 Luhmuhlen, Germany: Team Gold (Kilcashel)
1965 Moscow, Russia: Team Bronze (Barberry)
1967 Punchestown, Ireland: Team Gold (Barberry)
1971 Burghley, Great Britain: Team Gold (The Poacher)
1973 Kiev, Russia: Team Bronze (Wayfarer II)
1981 Horsens, Denmark: Team Gold (Kilcashel)