French Olympic eventing hero Jean-Jacques Guyon dies at 85

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Jean-Jacques Guyon and Pitou winning eventing gold at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Jean-Jacques Guyon and Pitou winning eventing gold at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Olympic gold medal winning eventer Jean-Jacques Guyon has died at the age of 85 in Paris, France.

Guyon was one of only two French riders to win Olympic Gold eventing medals. He died in Fontainebleau on December 20, and was still riding at the age of 83.

Guyon rode Pitou to individual gold at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. In an interview last year, after the French team won eventing gold at the Rio Olympic Games, Guyon said of his Olympic success: “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Jean-Jacques Guyon with Pitou and their gold medal.
Jean-Jacques Guyon (1.12.32 – 20.12.17) with Pitou and their gold medal. Guyon had ridden Pitou since the horse was four, and the pair won the French championship in 1965.

Guyon, who also won European team eventing bronze in 1967, competed in Mexico as an army officer attached to the military riding academy Cadre Noir in Saumur in western France.

He was 36 when he claimed eventing’s biggest prize. The competition was run in Avandaro, about 150km north of the main Games venue in Mexico City, because of altitude.

“We ended up doing the cross-country on a golf course, but we didn’t go on the greens,” he said.

“In 1968, the full contest looked nothing like what is done today. There were two dressage events. Then four cross-country phases [two on roads, a steeplechase and the cross-country proper] , and a final test of jumping. All in three days!”

But Avandaro was an area of high rainfall, and it was wet on cross-country day. It lasted only 30 minutes but the small two-metre stream serving as obstacle number 34 grew to reach up to 12m in width, with no visible take-off point. The course claimed the lives of two horses.

Guyon was the second French rider to win individual eventing gold, after Bernard Chevallier and Aiglonne won in London in 1948.

He was chosen to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremony in Mexico City, and later received the Legion of Honor from General de Gaulle.

Guyon remained involved with the equestrian world and was last seen in public in June during the French showjumping championship.

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