J. Michael Plumb Nominated To U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
To say that J. Michael Plumb has had an impact on the sport of eventing would be an understatement.
It is impossible to talk about Plumb without spewing statistics. Plumb rode in eight Olympics, beginning when he was 19 in 1960 in Rome until his last Olympic games in 1992 in Barcelona. He set an Olympic record for most appearances in the Games by an American athlete.
Plumb earned three silver team medals, two gold team medals and one individual silver medal in the course of his Olympic career.
Plumb could make history again as the first equestrian to be inducted in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Plumb is one of 18 athletes nominated from all Olympic sports for 2008. Six athletes will be inducted on June 19 in Chicago, Ill., joining the ranks of 84 athletes currently in the Hall of Fame, including Jesse Owens, Greg Louganis, Peggy Fleming and Mark Spitz.
Plumb's Olympic consistency is only part of the story.
Plumb was also a member of several Pan American Games squads, winning team gold in 1963 and individual and team gold in 1967. His international career also spanned several World Championships, including team and individual silver medals in 1974, and team bronze in 1978 and 1982.
Plumb has earned the United States Equestrian Association's Leading Rider of the Year Award 10 times and he was inducted into the USEA Hall of Fame in 2003.
Plumb is a team player. Throughout his equestrian career, his priority has always been to see the team succeed even if it meant sacrificing an individual medal.
"If I had a chance to win an individual medal as a result of taking a faster cross-country route, I would choose the longer route if it meant the team would benefit," Plumb says. "We wanted the team to finish. It was important."
Plumb was a team player early in his life. He played team sports in high school including baseball, basketball and he was the quarterback for his high school football team. Coming from an equestrian family, Plumb would ride during the summer months.
"I wanted to ride and it came easy to me," Plumb says.
Denny Emerson rode with Plumb on the 1974 gold medal World Championship team when Plumb was captain.
"Mike was very cool under pressure. He was the one you wanted to go in the ring to get the job done for the team," Emerson says.
"Mike was an amazingly gifted athlete. He was strong, fast, agile, had a great eye for distance and he was gutsy as all hell."
Plumb already had 17 years of experience competing in events by the time he was captain of the 1974 team. He rode in his first three-day event in 1957 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.
"The thing about Mike is he was there before the team was successful," Emerson says. "He was the reason the team was successful. Mike and Bruce Davidson were the foundation stones."
A Father's Influence
Plumb's tenacity was inherited from his father, Charles Plumb, who was also a gifted athlete and rider. Charles Plumb was a steeplechase rider who won the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup. (Mike Plumb placed second in the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1977.)
"My father stood by me," Plumb says. "I had the best support system. I should have been better than I was with all the help I had along the way. I couldn't go wrong. Talk about a list of who's who in the world of show jumping, dressage and eventing. And I had that availability."
In the '70s and '80s, Plumb had the opportunity to train with Jack Le Goff, who came over from England to coach the United States team.
"I attribute a lot of my success to his leadership," Plumb says.
'No One More Deserving'
Even though Plumb has had one of the most successful careers of any American athlete, he isn't comfortable in the limelight.
"I'm not as excited as some people are over this nomination," says Plumb, who describes himself as a hermit.
However, the equestrian community is ecstatic to have one of their own team in the running for the U.S. Hall of Fame.
"I've known Mike for a long time and have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I don't know anyone that has put more time, effort and determination into his training and competing," says Patty Heuckeroth, who was recently inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.
"This is a person who has gone to the Olympics for our country eight times. That is 32 years right there. That is not counting all the years before of hard work and discipline to become a rider worthy of the credentials necessary to represent the United States. It is exciting and most gratifying to have our first equestrian nominated to the Olympic Hall of Fame. There is no one more deserving than Mike Plumb."
Get Out the Vote
The voting period runs through March 28, which just happens to be Plumb's 68th birthday.
The general public can vote at www.usolympicteam.com, or through a link on the USEF Web site: www.usef.org.
If you don't have access to the Internet, go to your local library to cast your vote and give Plumb an early birthday present.?
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