Irish Olympic rider Tommy Brennan dies

  • Irish Olympic rider and course designer Tommy Brennan has died.

    He was 74 and had been suffering from a short illness.

    As well as representing his country in both showjumping and eventing, Tommy was also a championship course designer and chef d’equipe for the Irish junior eventing team.

    Tommy was born in Kilkenny and began his equestrian career hunting with the Co Kilkenny Foxhounds as a child.

    After training in animal husbandry, he went on to run Skiddoo Stud in Dublin, where he developed his famous partnership with a horse called Kilkenny.

    The pair represented Ireland in eventing at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, finishing fourth.

    They were also on the 1966 gold medal-winning team at the FEI world eventing championships at Burghley.

    Two sports at one Olympics

    In 1968, Tommy became the first Irishman to be selected to compete in two disciplines at one Olympics, when he was named for both the showjumping and eventing teams travelling to Mexico.

    However, a month before the Games his showjumper Tubber Mac, broke a leg at Dublin Horse Show.

    Over in Mexico torrential rain caused the river at the second last fence in the cross-country to burst its banks.

    Tommy and his partner March Hawk jumped in, but were swept downstream. The horse could swim, but Tommy couldn’t. He clung to the saddle until he was hauled out of the water by the then FEI President, Prince Phillip.

    In a course designing capacity he was in charge of the European Championships course at Punchestown in 1991 and 2003.

    In 1985 Tommy Brennan was awarded the FEI Gold Badge of Honour and in 1997 he was entered into the Irish Sports Council Hall of Fame for services to equestrian sport.

    Tommy Brennan was a real character, a legendary producer of top horses and a very talented course designer,” said FEI eventing and Olympic director Catrin Norinder.

    “His designs for the European Championships in Punchestown were brilliant. He always had a story to tell, and his many talents will be sadly missed.”

    His funeral was on Tuesday (22 July).

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