Mary Jane “MJ” Tumbridge is an accomplished equestrian who represented Bermuda at two Olympics and multiple Pan Am and World Championships.
Considered by many to be Bermuda’s best ever equestrian, she was the first Bermudian to win a gold medal [in any sport] at the Pan Am Games. In 1999 she captured the gold by winning the three day event in Winnipeg, adding them to her two silver Pan Am medals from previous games.
Born July 12, 1964, she is the daughter of Ralph and Irene Tumbridge. She started riding at age 7 at Warwick Riding School [now Spicelands Riding Centre].
After competing in Bermuda for a number of years, she went to live and compete in the United States when she was 18. She remained there for approximately 10 years, and then relocated to England in 1992.
In 1999 she was selected as Bermuda’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Her list of international competitions include:
- 1985 North American Young Riders Championships riding ‘Sight Unseen’ placing 4th
- 1990 World Championship in Sweden riding ‘Bermuda’s Pizzaz’
- 1991 Pan American Games on ‘Bermuda’s Option’ winning a silver medal
- 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona riding ‘Bermuda’s Option’
- 1994 Qualified for the World Equestrian Games
- 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome riding ‘Bermuda’s Gold’
- 1999 Pan American Games riding ‘Bermuda’s Gold’ won a gold medal
- 2000 Competed in the Olympics in Sydney riding ‘Bermuda’s Gold’
One could consider Ms. Tumbridge somewhat “jinxed” at Olympic level.
After representing Bermuda at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she qualified again for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Disaster struck when just before the games her horse ‘Bermuda’s Gold’ slipped and suffered a hairline fracture of a pelvic bone. There was no opportunity for Ms. Tumbridge to acquire another horse at the late stage, so she had to withdraw.
She went on to qualify for her third Olympics; the 2000 Sydney Games. She planned to ride Bermuda’s Gold, the same horse she won a Pan Am gold medal on. During the cross-country phase the horse landed awkwardly on the second fence, shattering her left hind leg.
Bermuda’s Gold was taken via horse ambulance to a special facility. After consultation with specialist vets, the decision was made to put the horse down as it stood minimal chance of recovery. It was the first equine fatality in an Olympics since 1968. Ms. Tumbridge was widely reported to be extremely devastated. The Humane Society of America called for reforms in the equestrian world, citing the death of Bermuda’s Gold.
Ms Tumbridge and Bermuda’s Gold weren’t alone. One that same day, at least nine horses fell and two competitors were taken to hospital; Roberto Macedo of Brazil with a broken pelvis and Nils Haagensen of Denmark with a broken shoulder.
Only 23 of the original 38 entries remained for show jumping on the final day.
The photo below shows an obviously distraught MJ Tumbridge being led away from the course after her horse fell and broke its leg in the Individual Three Day Eventing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. [Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images]
Ms. Tumbridge riding Ginger May Killinghurst at the 2005 Badminton Horse Trials in the UK