In Memory of Frank Chapot
It is with great sorrow that we hear of the passing of one of the sport’s all-time greatest legends, Frank D. Chapot. Chapot passed away at the age of 84 at approximately 12:30 a.m. on June 20 at the CareOne at Somerset Valley Assisted Living Center in Bound Brook, NJ, where he was under care for Alzheimers.
Chapot was a six-time Olympic Show Jumping rider who later became the U.S. Team’s show jumping chef d’equipe. A 1955 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he first joined the United States Equestrian Team (USET) in 1956 as its youngest member and while still on active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force. For the next twenty years, Chapot compiled an enviable record with the USET: two Olympic Silver Medals, an individual Bronze Medal in the 1974 World Championships, participating on a record 46 winning Nations’ Cup teams, and gaining victories in such prestigious events as the President’s Cup, the Grand Prix of New York, and London’s George V Gold Cup.
Following his riding career, Chapot succeeded Bertalan de Némethy as the U.S. team’s chef d’equipe, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. In that role, he helped the U.S. attain two historic and previously elusive goals: first-ever team Gold Medals in the Olympic Games (1984) and in the World Championships (1986).
In the 1988 Olympics, Chapot’s contribution to the Team’s Silver Medal went far beyond his role as chef d’equipe. Greg Best, the individual Silver Medalist, was Chapot’s pupil, and Best’s mount, Gem Twist, was a horse of Chapot’s own breeding and a son of Good Twist, one of his former mounts. Two years later, Gem Twist was named “Best Horse” at the World Championships in Stockholm, and he earned AGA Horse of the Year honors three times.
Chapot had a riding style that was a combination of electrifying speed, utter determination and intense competitiveness and it contributed to the election of three of his mounts to the Show Jumping Hall of Fame – San Lucas, Trail Guide and Good Twist. Above all, he was known for his love and appreciation for the US Team. He was rarely seen without a USA hat and polo shirt.
Chapot served as the U.S. Equestrian Team’s Vice President for Show Jumping for many years. Chapot also had an active career as a course designer and judge, and for years he rode timber races with considerable success, twice being placed in the Maryland Hunt Cup. Chapot was a founding member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Board of Directors and served on the Board of Directors of the American Grandprix Association (AGA) and several horse shows. He was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1994.
Born February 24, 1932, Francis Davis Chapot married his two-time Olympic teammate, the former Mary Mairs, in 1965, and they raised two daughters, Wendy and Laura, both of whom became equestrians, with Laura achieving a highly-successful Grand Prix career that included a team Bronze Medal at the 2007 Pan American Games. He is also survived by his son-in-law, Edward Nunn, and three grandchildren, Frank, Mary and Cathleen Nunn.
“Frank loved his days as a rider and the success he achieved with Bill Steinkraus and George Morris. He especially treasured the opportunity he had to train with Bert de Némethy,” said Mary Chapot. “Although a formidable competitor, especially against the clock, his main focus was always the Nations Cup. He had little patience with riders who wanted to save their best horse for the Grand Prix. I like to think that his early input has contributed to more money being added in to those competitions, and the scheduling of most Nations Cups to the Friday before the Sunday Grand Prix, rather than the day before, as was usual way back when.”
Arrangements are being handled by the Branchburg, NJ, Funeral Home. There will be no visitation or funeral, as per Frank’s request, but a celebration of his life will be held at some point in the autumn. Contributions in his memory may be made to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation at www.USET.org.