Fri, September 20, 2013

65-year-old Millar may not be done yet

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency



GREENWICH, U.K. - So, is there a No. 11 in the offing?

There already would have been a No. 11 for Ian Millar if Canada didn't boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. But now that he has 10 Olympics under his belt -- which is a new Olympic record -- the Perth, Ont., native isn't closing the door on competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"It depends on the horse," he said. "This whole job is a lot more fun and rewarding when you're riding a good horse. And the horse I have now, Star Power, is quite a fantastic horse, and he's 11. So next time around he'll be 14, which is still well within range. So if he's willing, I'm willing."

Millar will be 69 during the Rio Games.

Riders are often defined by their horses, but the amazing thing about Millar is that, in 10 Olympics he has never ridden the same horse. He rode Style to help Canada win silver in team jumping in Beijing, and here in London he'll be atop Star Power. But no matter who he rides, Millar will always be associated with one horse, Big Ben. And the same for his Olympic teammate Eric Lamaze, and his horse, Hickstead, who died last year after collapsing at a World Cup in Verona, Italy. Lamaze rode Hickstead to individual gold in Beijing and over $4 million in career earnings. Millar and Big Ben won 40 Grand Prix titles and consecutive Show Jumping World Cups together. Big Ben died in 1999.

Both horses are legends, though Lamaze and Millar are amazed that people still ask as about them, as a reporter from the Irish Independent did on Thursday.

"I was overwhelmed by the amount of letters I received, and notes of pictures Hickstead, drawings of Hickstead," said Lamaze. "I have a very large trunk in my home in Florida and it's full of books that people have signed. There are so many things. I was very much overwhelmed but how much he affected so many people."

"Both horses certainly had extraordinary ability," said Millar. "And it's their willingness and ability to learn (that sets them apart).

And once they know their trade very well, it comes down to how solid they stay physically and heart and mind. Just how badly they want to do it. And both horses really had one thing in common and that is they seemed to have an innate feeling for when the big moment was, and they would rise to the occasion and that's what the winners do."

"We both know what made those horses so special," said Lamaze. "I think we're both very grateful to have had them in our career."

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca