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Olympics2012Ian Millar a constant Olympic presence

Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 | 08:54 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Ian Millar and Star Power have knocked down just two rails over the course of three rounds and anchored the Canadian effort in the team final where Canada won a silver medal despite playing shorthanded because of an injury to Tiffany Foster's horse Victor. (Markus Schreiber/Associated Press) Ian Millar and Star Power have knocked down just two rails over the course of three rounds and anchored the Canadian effort in the team final where Canada won a silver medal despite playing shorthanded because of an injury to Tiffany Foster's horse Victor. (Markus Schreiber/Associated Press)

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Canadian show jumper Ian Millar, quite rightly, took a back seat to teammate Eric Lamaze's gold medal win at the Beijing Olympics. Millar is back in the spotlight, the subject of much international discussion because he's 65 years old and still, apparently, near the top of his game.

There's one thing you can't take away from Ian Millar. 

He's got Star Power.

In fact, he's got a double dose of it. 

It just happens to be the name of the horse he's riding in the show jumping competition at these Olympics, but Millar also has instant recognition with a hefty majority of Canadians who follow sport.

To many, he's still referred to as, "Captain Canada," and most of the time he lives up to that name.  At his record-setting 10th Olympics here in London, he's looked sharp through the team event, or Nation's Cup as it's known, and he's impressively qualified for the individual final on Day 12 Wednesday.

Millar and Star Power have knocked down just two rails over the course of three rounds and anchored the Canadian effort in the team final where Canada was playing shorthanded because of an injury to Tiffany Foster's horse, Victor. It was the same situation Canada was faced with at the 2008 Olympics with competition being held in Hong Kong.

That time, Millar's experience came to the forefront as the Canadians captured the silver medal.  Eric Lamaze and the remarkable stallion Hickstead romped to individual gold to make it a landmark equestrian achievement for Canada. This time, the Canadian team wound up a strong fifth based on consistent jumping by Millar and Star Power.

At the 2008 Beijing Games, most of the headlines, quite rightly, went to Lamaze because of the individual gold medal victory, (a Canadian first), and Captain Canada willingly played a supporting role in what became a compelling story.

Back in the spotlight

Now Millar is back in the spotlight, the subject of much international discussion because he's 65 years old and still, apparently, near the top of his game.

Nobody has competed at more Olympics than Ian Millar, period.

Captain Canada started in 1972 at the Munich Games and witnessed the tragedy of the murdered Israeli athletes.

"It was where I first became aware of the reality of terrorism," Millar told me during our interview at Spruce Meadows earlier this summer. "But along with the other athletes I knew that the Games had to continue because if they didn't the terrorists would have won. The Olympics are about the positive power that sport has."

In other words, Millar became convinced early in his Olympic career that the Games must go on. It seems he's taken that to heart because Captain Canada has been involved in one-third of all Olympiads in the modern era.

And so, to someone who has followed show jumping for more than 20 years, it was particularly gratifying to see Ian Millar centre stage again at the marvelous equestrian venue in London.

Not far from famous sea going vessels like the Gypsy Moth and in the shadow of the old naval base near the splendor of Greenwich Park, Millar goes head to head with all the characters we've become familiar with at Spruce Meadows. 

Nick Skelton is riding high for Great Britain and the classy Rodrigo Pessoa has Brazil near the top.  All of the American stars like Beezie Madden and McLain Ward continue to be contenders for medals whenever they enter the ring.

But so, too, is Ian Millar.

All these years later, he is not so much this country's senior citizen of the Olympics, but rather he is the constant Canadian presence at the Games.

It's comforting to know that come Wednesday, Captain Canada rides again.

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