Mon, November 18, 2013

Ringsmaster Millar on course

By ROD KELLY, QMI Agency


Millar off to a record 10th Olympics
 

CALGARY - When Ian Millar hops aboard his beloved Dutch Warmblood gelding Star Power and takes to the course at this summer's Olympic Games in London, he will not simply be aiming to reach the podium at the highest level in sports.

The legend of showjumping will also be rewriting the history books while he’s there.

Because with his first jump on the big stage in Great Britain, the 65-year-old Halifax-born Millar will set a new standard for most Olympics Games appearances by any athlete with 10, surpassing Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl, with whom Millar today shares a previous record nine Olympics showings.

“I haven’t sat in his yacht or boat or whatever you call it,” a smiling Millar said when reminded of the upcoming and miraculous achievement he’s about to accomplish later this summer. “But I would have to suspect that sitting on this horse might be a little trickier. But what do I know? Maybe sailing is trickier than sitting on the horse. I don’t know.”

What the nine-time national champion, reigning Olympic team silver medallist and face of equestrian in Canada does know, however, is that as well as having been blessed with an uncanny knack to ride, his famed career has also included a bit of good fortune along the way.

“There is some luck,” Millar said of what has made him so unbreakable and impressive. “You know … your good genes — that’s nothing I did. I was just born with good genes — good Maritime stock. And you have to be lucky with your injuries over the years, because there are a lot of athletes in any sport who have injuries that they get better from, and sometimes, they don’t get better.

“Sometimes, they can be career-ending and sometimes, they’re not. I’ve been very fortunate with my injuries that they haven’t got in the way.”

Perhaps even more astonishing about the Perth, Ont., rider’s record-breaking career is the fact the Order of Canada and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee has actually qualified for 11 Olympic Games.

But Canada’s decision to boycott the 1980 competition in Moscow prevented him from competing that time around.

Notwithstanding the missed opportunity in the Russian capital more than three decades ago, Millar said the personal satisfaction he takes in raising the bar to 10 Games appearances is immense.

And he credits many of the great partners he’s had over the years.

“You try to stay on good horses,” Millar said. “Talented, good horses in their heart and their mind are likely to make way fewer mistakes than some of these horses that shouldn’t leave perfectly safe ground because they really can’t jump. Those are the ones you’re going to get banged up on. In my youth, of course, I rode plenty of them, but I’m pretty darned careful with what I get on now.

“And like any athlete that lasts a long time, their basics are probably going to be quite sound and classical.

“They’re going to be very efficient in the way they do what they do, because an inefficient athlete or one whose basics are a little unusual or unconventional, in all likelihood, that’s going to be harder on his or her body.

“I would say I’m quite classical in the way I do it and quite an efficient rider in the way I ride.”

Efficient, indeed. Incredible would be correct, too.

rod.kelly@sunmedia.ca

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