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June 5, 2012

1960 Prix des Nations Report

Reports from international competitions in the '60s were frequently accompanied by hand-drawn course diagrams instead of photos.

Sept. 30, 1960

Editor Alexander Mackay-Smith reports on the Olympic Prix des Nations in Rome in 1960.

Olympic Prix Des Nations

As the shadows moved across the greensward and gaily painted fences in the center of Rome’s Olympic stadium, a bay Thoroughbred mare tiptoed down the ramp beneath a pink-coated rider. The crowd which filled every seat and aisle of the arena suddenly hushed with anticipation.

For this was Halla, the great Halla, who with Hans Guenter Winkler had won virtually every international show jumping event in the world, turning in a perfect second round to win the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal when her rider, groaning with pain from a rupture sustained during the morning round, was just a passenger. Now the German team was leading; if Halla and Winkler could produce as good a round, the Gold Medal would be theirs.

The calmness with which they saluted the judges and walked about, waiting for the starting bell, suggested a ride in the park rather than the tensest moment of the Equestrian Olympic Games. Following the bell, they trotted leisurely through the electric eye of the starting gate, broke into a slow canter and slid over the first fence.

Only 2 minutes were allowed to negotiate the 14 obstacles (17 fences in all), spread over 2½ circuits of the arena, causing concern as to whether the slow pace would be offset by the mare’s raking stride.

When Winkler finally let the mare go approaching the water where so many had failed, she instantly took fire, flew over with a yard to spare, but quickly steadied herself to resume the original pace. At last only the final fence remained, the biggest spread of all, painted poles over water. It looked like the only clean round of the 101 turned in that day, but the far pole came down when the mare dropped a foot.

The deafening applause which followed the pair out of the ring was impressive, but conveyed nothing new. When Winkler relaxed before Fence 14, Halla knew that they already had the points—that Germany had won the Gold Medal.

This article was first published on Sept. 30, 1960, in The Chronicle. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.