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Ian Millar: Jumping for glory

The Story

Ian Millar is the top equestrian show jumper in the world. His legendary mount, Big Ben, is also in peak condition. Together, they're raring and able to win a medal in Seoul at what will be Millar's fourth Olympics. In this CBC Television clip, the 41-year-old Millar makes no bones about his desire to taste bronze, silver or gold. "It's very, very important," Millar says; for Big Ben, for the horse's owners and for himself. ** Update: Millar won a silver medal in team jumping at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. **

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Aug. 8, 1988
Guest(s): Ian Millar
Host: Peter Downie
Interviewer: Valerie Pringle
Duration: 7:10

Did You know?

• Despite Millar's hopeful prediction of success at the 1988 Seoul Games, he and Big Ben finished 15th. Early in the round, Big Ben seemed surprised and unnerved after knocking down the middle rail of a jump, Millar told the Canadian Press at the time. "Whether it was frustration, or his confidence was shattered, whatever. He just didn't jump well after that," Millar said. They knocked down two more rails.

• Ian Millar was born Jan. 6, 1947, in Halifax, N.S. First named to the Canadian equestrian team in 1971, he has competed in seven Olympic Games -- more than any other Canadian. While an Olympic medal has eluded his grasp, Millar is the most successful show jumper in Canada. He also holds the North American record for grand prix and derby wins.

• Millar competed in every Summer Olympics from 1972 in Munich until 2008 in Beijing with the exception of the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. He rode Big Ben in three of them -- 1984, 1988 and 1992. Before 2008 he came closest to the podium in 1984 with a fourth place finish in the team competition. The closest Millar came in individual competition was fifth.

• Millar's medal quest was finally successful at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Astride his horse In Style, Millar rode to a silver medal in team jumping. It was his ninth Olympic appearance, tying for a world record, and at 61 he became the oldest Canadian to win an Olympic medal.  

• Millar has also been showered with hundreds of medals, ribbons and trophies in more than three decades of international competition. He was the first rider to win back-to-back World Cup Final titles, in 1988 and 1989. Millar is also an eight-time Canadian Show Jumping Champion. He has won gold at the Pan American Games three times. Both his children, Jonathon and Amy, also ride competitively.

• Big Ben was born in Belgium in 1976. The chestnut-coloured Belgian Warmblood gelding drew even bigger flocks of fans than Millar. After a remarkable career, Big Ben said goodbye to his many fans on a national tour in 1994. He was put down Dec. 11, 1999 after suffering a severe bout of colic, an intestinal condition. Big Ben was buried at his old partner's Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ont.

• Ian Millar, in an interview with CBC Radio's The Inside Track in August 1988: "The Olympic Games are extremely, extremely important. They're probably the highest profile title in our sport in the world for sure and we have one of the top horses in the world in Big Ben and he's capable of doing everything required to win a gold."




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