(Toms River, NJ)—John “Jeb” Wofford has ridden horses since he was three, but he learned the skills of riding and jumping show horses while attending elite schools in Europe, a privilege he enjoyed as a benefit of the travel inherent in his father’s diplomatic service.
Today, Wofford lives at The Chelsea at Toms River, 1657 Silverton Road, an assisted living community where he’s been since 2012 and where he is known as a sort of sports celebrity. The son of an Olympic equestrian rider with two brothers who also competed, he is the proud owner of a Bronze Medal for the Men’s Three-Day Equestrian Event in the 1952 Helsinki games. And at age 85, he is still trim and clear-eyed as he watches the Rio Olympics with the same interest he’s had in the games for more than 60 years.
“When you see the Olympics on TV now, I assure you that all those young people there don’t just walk in out of the blue and start doing the sport,” he explained to a rapt audience at The Chelsea, invited to spend a day celebrating international sports in an event called Never Too Old for the Gold. “All those young people have been doing it, in some cases, from the time they were little children. In my sport, which was the riding and the show jumping and cross country jumping, we started sometimes when we were four or five. I was jumping horses and doing other horse sports from the time I was six or seven years old.”
Wofford finished 31st in the individual Three Day Event at the 1952 Olympics and was a member of the U.S. team which took the Bronze medal. He was the son of “Gyp” Wofford who played a vital part in ensuring that the U.S. equestrian team was properly represented at the first two post-war Olympics. In Helsinki, Wofford rode his father’s horse, Benny Grimes.
Wofford has attended many Olympic Games as a spectator. His most memorable moment, aside from winning the Bronze, was the horror of the 1972 Munich games when terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage in a siege that ended with 17 people killed.
“We went through a period of 24 or 48 hours there of absolute terror,” Wofford recalls. “When I first went to [Olympic Games] in, say, 1948, ‘52 and ‘56, that sort of thing would never have happened. We didn’t have terrorists. We were worried about the hydrogen bomb, but then that never happened. Now we get terrorist attacks almost on a weekly basis.”
Wofford received warm applause from the audience, many of whom he counts as friends he’s met since moving to The Chelsea.