OBITUARY:Wilf White

Wilf White was a key figure in the glory days of British show- jumping in the 1950s - when the sport's leading riders were all household names - and a member of the team that won Britain's only Olympic gold medal for show-jumping. The victory was achieved in 1952 at Helsinki, where White so nearly became the individual champion on his great horse Nizefela. He would have won but for the controversial decision of a judge, who thought that the horse had dropped a foot in the water. The four faults incurred as a result left White in fifth place.

Sir Harry Llewellyn, who was also on the victorious team, has always been convinced that Nizefela cleared the water. "It was not considered 'British' to complain and so no objection was lodged," Llewellyn wrote in his autobiography. "I think to this day that Wilf White is the unluckiest man I have ever known not to have won an individual gold medal."

Though he possessed a determined streak, White was not a man to push himself forward. He had surprised everybody when taking a nap between the two rounds of the Olympic contest, in which he had the best British score. He was equally easy-going and unassuming after the medal ceremony when Llewellyn (already famous for his exploits with Foxhunter) became the inadvertent focus of media attention.

White, the son of a farmer, was born in Cheshire in 1904. He began show- jumping at the age of 17 and forged a successful partnership with a grey horse called Desire, before he bought the then four-year-old Nizefela in 1946. The young horse was the result of an unplanned union between a two-year-old Shire colt and the small thoroughbred mare whose field he had jumped into.

Nizefela became as famous for his kick-back as for his ability to clear big fences. He habitually lashed back with his hindlegs while in mid-air but White, who was a wonderful natural horseman, always kept in balance with his mount.

The late Col Sir Mike Ansell, who was responsible for the post-war success of British show jumping, called White "the full-back" of his Nations Cup teams. He contributed to eight British team victories at White City between 1949 and 1957 - on all but the first occasion with Nizefela, who was also his mount when winning a team bronze medal (again with the best British score) in the 1956 Olympics. In 1958, White was appointed OBE for his services to show-jumping.

White was a long-serving member of the British Show Jumping Association's executive committee and he was a steward at the Royal Show for 21 years. He had ridden over hurdles and was later successful as a permit-holding trainer of National Hunt horses, with successes in both hurdle races and steeplechases. He was still driving a wagon and caravan when he was 70; he jumped at Olympia at the same age.

White and his second wife, Mary Cowley, moved in 1980 to the Isle of Man. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the last five years of his life.

Genevieve Murphy

Wilfrid Harry White, farmer, show-jumper and horse trainer: born Cheshire 30 March 1904; OBE 1958; twice married; died Isle of Man 21 November 1995.

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