Frank Chapot passed away peacefully on June 20 at the age of 84. Whether it was in life or through the sport of show jumping, Chapot gave it his all. As a husband, father, friend, teammate, coach, and competitor, Chapot left an abiding mark on the sport and on those who knew him.
For five decades, Chapot played an instrumental role on the U.S. Show Jumping Team. After winning the renowned Maclay Championship in 1947 at the junior level, Chapot went on to have a remarkable career as a professional. As a competitor, he was the youngest member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team, balancing this honor with his active duty responsibilities with the U.S. Air Force.
Chapot went on to appear in five more Olympic Games, winning Team Silver medals in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He participated on a record 46 winning Nations Cup teams, three Pan American Games teams, and picked up notable victories at such events as the President’s Cup, the Grand Prix of New York, and London’s King George V Gold Cup.
Following a lucrative career as a competitor, he found resounding success as the U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe, a role he held for 24 years. Prior to his retirement in 2004, he helped the U.S. Show Jumping Team obtain its first Team Gold medals in the 1984 Olympic Games and the 1986 World Championships. He led the U.S. to Team Silver medal wins in the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games. In addition, Greg Best, who Chapot personally coached, earned an Individual Silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games with mount, Gem Twist, who Chapot bred. Chapot obtained the elusive goal of winning the FEI Nations Cup World Series Championship in 1997, the first time the U.S. won the title since 1968, when Chapot played a role as a competitor.
“I had the privilege to ride with Frank as a member of the U.S. Show Jumping Team and he always inspired you to be highly competitive in every event,” said Chrystine Tauber, USEF President. “I remember him telling me ‘if you don’t win the first class, you cannot win them all!’. Later when I was the USET Director of Show Jumping and Frank was Chef d’Equipe, he greatly influenced the training and selection process and had a huge impact on the governance side of equestrian sport. He was a fervent supporter of the Olympic effort, and deserves a great deal of credit for making show jumping what it is today in the United States. Rarely have I seen someone more proud to wear the red, white, and blue in support of his country. He will be remembered as a legend in the equestrian community.”
In addition to being a competitor and coach, Chapot was a course designer, judge, and a timber race rider. Chapot remained active in the sport up until recently when his health started to decline. Chapot is survived by his wife of 51 years, Mary Mairs, who was his Olympic teammate in 1964 and 1968, and daughters Wendy and Laura, both successful show jumpers in their own regard.
Arrangements are being made by the Branchburg, N.J., Funeral Home. A celebration of his life will be held in the autumn. There will be no funeral or visitation per Chapot’s request.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation at USET.org.