Remembering Reiner Klimke

Mary Phelps and Dr. Reiner Klimke 1999

Mary Phelps and Dr. Reiner Klimke 1999

In July 1999 I visited Dr. Reiner Klimke at his home in Muenster, Germany and he adorned me with his medals. Just a month later he was gone, but not his legacy and all he was to the dressage world.

Reiner Klimke (14 January 1936 – 17 August 1999) was a German equestrian, who won six gold and two bronze medals in dressage at the Summer Olympics — a record for equestrian events. He appeared in six Olympics from 1960 to 1988, excluding the 1980 Games that were boycotted by West Germany. He won team gold in 1964, 1968 (both on Dux), 1976 (riding Mehmed), 1984 and 1988 (both with Ahlerich), and the individual gold in 1984 on Ahlerich.

Klimke studied Harry Boldt and Gustaf Rau. His two bronze medals came in the individual event in 1968 and 1976. Klimke also had a fine record at the World Championships, winning six gold medals: two individual, in 1974 on Mehmed and in 1982 on Ahlerich, and four team: 1966, 1974, 1982, 1986.

At the European Championships, he was the individual champion in 1967, 1973, and 1985 and rode on seven winning West German teams (1965, 1973, 1983, 1985, and others) . Klimke also competed in eventing early in his career. He was a member of the winning West German three-day event team at the 1959 European Championships, and finished 18th in individual eventing at the 1960 Summer Olympics, making him the best German combination. He also won a Grand Prix show jumping competition in Berlin.

Reiner Klimke was the son of a psychologist and a neurologist. With his wife, Ruth (also a top show jumping and dressage rider), he had three children: Ingrid, Rolf, and Michael. Ingrid competes in eventing and dressage; she won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, twenty years after her father's last Olympic gold. Michael also competes at the Grand Prix level in dressage.

Klimke not only rode and trained, but also ran a law firm and served on several boards, including the FEI Dressage Committee. Klimke died from a heart attack at age 63 in Münster, his place of birth. Prior to his death, he had planned to start at the 2000 Summer Olympics.




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