British Show Jumping Olympian Tim Grubb Dies at 55

Tim Grubb, a three-time British Olympian in show jumping, died May 11 at the age of 55.
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Tim Grubb, a three-time British Olympian in show jumping, died May 11 at the age of 55.
Tim Grubb and Linky, his Olympic silver medal mount, competing at the American Invitational, which he won in 1986. | Photo courtesy of the City of Tampa Archives

Tim Grubb and Linky, his Olympic silver medal mount, competing at the American Invitational, which he won in 1986. | Photo courtesy of the City of Tampa Archives

May 12, 2010 -- Tim Grubb, one of international show jumping's brightest stars during the 1980s and early 1990s, died suddenly on May 11 at age 55, little more than a month after starting a new life with a promising job.

A three-time British Olympian, Tim rode Linky on the silver medal team at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, four years after winning team silver at the 1980 Alternate Olympics. He also was a member of the British squad in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Tim moved to the U.S. after his 1978 marriage to show jumper Michele McEvoy, finally becoming an American citizen before the 1994 World Equestrian Games, where he rode on his new nation's team.

His many successes included some of this country's most important grands prix, including the American Invitational, Devon and the Hampton Classic. He was the 1993 American Grand Prix Association (AGA) Champion when Denizen won the AGA Horse of the Year title.

In recent years, Tim had stopped competing and moved around, living in Canada and Ocala, Fla., with some time spent in California. He concentrated on training and buying and selling horses. He had gone through rehab, but trainer Anne Madej of Illinois convinced Tim to leave Ocala, where she believed he wasn't doing well, and move to the Midwest. There he worked with her and Tapestry Farm trainers Josie Howard and Scott Gentry in nearby Wisconsin.

"I feel like he was worth trying for,'' said Anne, noting that the arrangement was working well since he arrived at the beginning of April. "He was embraced wholeheartedly here. I wish we had had a little more time."

Tim had been getting ready to ride a horse when he said he wasn't feeling well and sat down on a mounting block and lost consciousness. His death was believed to be from congestive heart failure.

He and Michele were divorced but friendly, speaking often on the phone. They had two children: Christopher ("Topher"), who works in event management, and Dottie, an Auburn University student who won the FEI World Children's Jumper Championship in 2000.

Anne recalled the scene when Tim packed up to leave Ocala.

"The man has got more clothes than a runway model and trinkets that other people call Olympic medals, but all he was concerned that was packed and bubble-wrapped wasn't any of the stuff about him, it was about the kids." The pictures of Topher and Dottie, once unwrapped, covered the walls of his room in Wisconsin.

Michele said she had gotten numerous phone calls from Tim's many friends, including Nick Skelton and Mark Phillips, as people tried to come to terms with the sad news.

"There was such an outpouring from around the world," she noted. "Tim had a way of really saving up and hitting the big one, whether it was in the ring or with a joke."

"He was a wonderful person; his horsemanship and his love of horses and his love of competition--that's the way he'd love to be remembered," she said.

Tim was riding before he could sit up, Michele recalled. He started out in Pony Club and was an avid fox hunter. He also was a freelance steeplechase jockey for 18 months, but frequent injuries pointed him toward show jumping instead.

He was always willing to help fellow riders and did it with the humor and grace that were integral to his character.

Arrangements were still indefinite today. However, a moment of silence is planned at this weekend's Old Salem Farm show, and Michele hoped to do something at the Hampton Classic horse show. She would like a gathering of his friends and family, where Tim could be toasted and people would celebrate his life with anecdotes and remembrances.

"I know that's what he'd want," said Michele.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Tim's memory may be mailed to Janise Gray at the Equestrian Aid Foundation, 228 Phillips Terrace, Union, NJ 07083 or made online at
www.equestrianaidfoundation.org or by calling 1-800-792-6068.