Mon, September 23, 2013

Showjumping team has it all

By ROD KELLY, QMI Agency


Tiffany Foster. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)


CALGARY - When the official announcement was made that Tiffany Foster would represent Canada at the London Olympics this summer, the natural question might have been whether this was the biggest thrill ever for her.

However, Foster’s joyous, cheerful laughter throughout the introductory ceremony at Spruce Meadows was proof in itself that competing for her home country was, indeed, a monumental time.

“I wanted to be in control,” said Foster, whose rise to the top of Canada’s showjumping ranks has been nothing short of remarkable.

“It’s a surreal feeling for me,” she said.

“That’s the word I would use. I’m very excited.”

While the Vancouver-born rider is certainly the baby among the five showjumping competitors from Canada who’ll be making the journey across the Atlantic later this summer, it may be the first-time Olympian’s contagious, youthful exuberance that proves most beneficial when Team Canada takes on the world in Great Britain from July 27-Aug. 12.

Consider that Foster is 27, and among her Olympic teammates, the closest in age is Yann Candele, who’s 41.

Foster’s coach and mentor, Eric Lamaze, is 44. Jill Henselwood is 49. And Ian Millar, a.k.a., Captain Canada, is 65.

It’s a combination of experience and youth that Foster said not only helps make the 2012 Canadian group unique but cohesive, as well.

“I think it’s a great team we have,” said Foster, who’ll guide her horse, Victor, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, throughout the competition in the U.K.

“There’s really good chemistry within our team, so I think that we’re going to kind of all lean on each other over there,” she said.

“But, obviously, the Olympics are different than a normal horse show. There’s that magic.”

For Foster’s veteran teammates, being there to offer solid, veteran guidance when the going gets tough is something they’ve come to expect.

Henselwood, for instance, was a key part of a silver-medal showing in team riding four years ago in Beijing.

She said the pressure of international action is nothing new.

“Sure, the Olympics will be a whole new experience for Tiffany,” Henselwood said.

“But, basically, you’ve got jockeys here that are used to pressure. I don’t think (the Olympic pressure) will hamper our performance in any way.”

Henselwood said working together as a team is the only way to succeed and the only way to move forward from now until when they get on their mounts at the Games.

“From my perspective, I don’t think we look at it like, ‘What do we do if something goes wrong,’ ” Henselwood said.

“I think you’re looking ahead saying, ‘How do we make it perfect?’

“We’re striving now to pull it together and make every move perfect and make sure that our horses are healthy and happy and land there,” Henselwood said.

“Then, we’ll give it a shot.”

rod.kelly@sunmedia.ca

@SUNRodKelly