COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. ― Equestrian Jonathan Wentz, a member of the U.S. Paralympic Team for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, died Sunday at the age of 21. A cause of death is not immediately known.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Jonathan Wentz, a member of our 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team," said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the United States Olympic Committee. "He was a fine young man who represented his country with great pride and respect. We were honored to have him as part of Team USA and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends in the equestrian community during this difficult time."
A celebration of Wentz's life will be held Saturday (Oct. 6) at Grace Bible Church, 11306 Inwood Road, in Dallas. The memorial is open to the public and starts at 2 p.m.
Wentz had recently returned from Washington DC, where he shook the hand of President Barack Obama while visiting the White House with the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams. In London, Wentz was a member of the United States team that earned seventh place in the Games. He also finished fourth in the individual test and fifth in the freestyle test in grade 1b competition riding Kai Handt's NTEC Richter Scale. With his strong results, Wentz earned the distinction of being the highest-placining American equestrian at either the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic Games.
"It is with a heavy and numb heart that we notify every one of the tremendous loss of our precious son Jonathan," his parents James and Tina Wentz posted on their son’s Facebook page. "He was taken suddenly from us and has left a hole in our lives that will never be filled. He loved life and lived it each day giving his all toward his riding, school, family and friends. We do not understand why his life on this earth was so short, but we celebrate every day we were given to love, laugh, and enjoy our amazing son, and we rejoice in the knowledge that he is with his Lord riding and running like never before. Thank you to everyone who shared a part of his life."
Wentz enjoyed an extremely successful career with NTEC Richter Scale, a horse that carried him to the Paralympic Games, the world championships and a national title. In 2010, the pair represented Team USA for the first time at the Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games. The following year they claimed the 2011 United States Equestrian Foundation National Para-Equestrian Championship. In 2012, the combination earned reserve champion honors at the 2012 USEF National Para-Equestrian Championships and U.S. Paralympic Trials - Equestrian prior to travelling to London. Wentz also finished in sixth place with Silvano at the 2012 National Championship.
"The Federation sends our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Wentz family. Jonathan was great competitor and outstanding role model for all in equestrian sport. He will be greatly missed," said John Long, USEF CEO.
As well as competing at the highest level, Wentz was a tireless advocate for his sport. He served on the USEF Youth Council representing para-equestrian and was a member of the USEF Para Equestrian Technical Committee. Additionally, he served as an ambassador for hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and para-equestrian dressage from an early age.
Wentz was also a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a keen interest in political science, history and the law. He hoped to attend law school after completing his undergraduate degree.
The United States Equestrian Foundation contributed to this report.