Mon, September 23, 2013

Eric Lamaze shows gold mettle

By ROD KELLY, QMI Agency


Eric Lamaze during the naming of the Canadian Olympic equestrian team in Calgary, Alta., July 5, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)


CALGARY - Canadian horse rider Eric Lamaze is heading into the 2012 London Olympic Games as the defending champion in his sport.

But equestrian fans probably cant help but wonder if the Schomberg, Ont., competitor is feeling more like an underdog facing near-impossible odds than a proven winner out to repeat his impressive feat of four years ago.

Even Lamaze himself, the rider who captured international glory aboard the powerful stallion Hickstead in 2008 at Beijing, sees the London Games in a new light.

Its a result of the unexpected loss of Hickstead, the star mount that died from an acute aortic rupture last year.

I openly say, if youre asking me, Are you going to defend your gold medal? No, Im not going to defend my gold medal, the 44-year-old, Montreal-born rider said Thursday at Spruce Meadows, where he was one of five introduced as members of this years Canadian Olympic show-jumping team.

If I had Hickstead, Id say, Yes, Im going to defend my gold medal. Maybe in four years time, you know, Ill say, You know what, Im going to win the gold medal. But Im not saying that now.

Lamaze said he has had no other choice but to adopt a different outlook toward the individual competition at the July 27-Aug. 12 Olympics in Great Britain.

Fact is, until the time the star mount died during a World Cup event last November in Italy, the only plan Lamaze and Team Canada had was for Hickstead to once again be showing at the Games.

My horse for this Olympics was always going to be Hickstead, Lamaze explained.

But with the tragedy that happened, there was a change of plans. So with the change of plans, its kind of like Im an athlete that had an injury and had very little time to train.

I didnt have a backup to Hickstead. I had to create one and buy one and do all that, but ... in a short period of time. So, thats the reality of it.

While the winner of last years CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows is realistic with respect to the challenges he faces at the London Games, Lamaze is not entering the competition as though all has been lost.

Now riding Derly Chin de Muze, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, Lamaze said hes particularly driven by how he may be able to play a significant role in helping Canada in the team event this time around.

In 2008, Lamaze was part of Team Canadas silver-medal performance in team jumping.

Hes hoping for big things from this years lineup, too, a contingent made of Lamaze, Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood, Tiffany Foster and Yann Candele.

Im feel good that I can very much help Canada and be very helpful to win a medal.

rod.kelly@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRodKelly