Millar, Lamaze go for gold in individual jumping
Ian Millar goes for the second medal of his 36-year Olympic career when the equestrian individual show jumping competition begins Thursday in Hong Kong.
Appearing in his record-tying ninth Summer Games, Millar, 61, anchored Canada to the silver in team jumping on Monday. In doing so, he became the oldest Canadian ever to win an Olympic medal, completing a quest that began at the 1972 Games in Munich.
Riding In Style, Millar came through in the clutch with a perfect run to lead the Canadian team into a jump-off for gold with the United States.
Millar, from Perth, Ont., and teammates Lamaze of Schomberg, Ont., Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., and Mac Cone of King City, Ont., couldn't keep up with the Americans in the tiebreaker — it didn't help that Cone had to sit out due to a minor injury to his horse, denying his team the luxury of dropping its lowest score — but still came away with Canada's first Olympic medal in team jumping since 1968.
"[I've ridden on] many fine teams," said Millar, who will be among the frontrunners to carry the Maple Leaf at the closing ceremony in Beijing. "Real fine, this one."
Lamaze in silver-medal position
Millar will have to go it alone beginning Wednesday when the individual event kicks off with the judges' inspection of the horses.
The competition resumes in earnest on Thursday with Round A of the final (7:15 a.m. ET), followed by the medal-deciding Round B (10:10 a.m. ET).
Technically, the push for the podium is already underway, as Monday's team event doubled as the qualifier for the individual competition.
Among the 35 riders who earned the right to vie for individual medals were Millar, Lamaze and Henselwood. The minor injury to Cone's mount, Ole, prevented the rider from advancing.
Though Millar remains the sentimental favourite for Canadians, Lamaze and his superb horse Hickstead are in the best position for medal. They sit in a tie for second with four faults, one more than leader Tony Andre Hansen of Norway.
Millar and In Style are tied for eighth position with eight faults, while Henselwood and Special Ed are in 26th with 19 faults.
Failed cocaine tests
While not as famous as Millar, Lamaze, 39, has a backstory that is perhaps even more compelling.
Lamaze lost his place on the Canadian team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after a drug test turned up cocaine. He was reinstated later that year when an arbitrator decided to go easy on Lamaze, who grew up with a drug-dealing mother in Montreal and said he fell off the wagon at a party to celebrate his Olympic opportunity.
Then, on the eve of the 2000 Games in Sydney, Lamaze failed another drug test, this time for a banned stimulant. Facing a lifetime ban, Lamaze said he contemplated suicide before the positive test was expunged on appeal 48 hours later.
Incredibly, Lamaze quickly failed another test for cocaine. He dodged a lifetime ban for the second time when the same arbitrator who ruled in his favour in 1996 did so again, but the Canadian Olympic Committee decided to keep Lamaze off the team for Sydney.
Lamaze, though, cleaned up his act, and in 2007 became the first Canadian rider in 20 years to crack the top 10 in the world rankings. Now he's excelling in his first Olympic appearance.
"Every day, I feel that it doesn't matter if I win or what I do," Lamaze told the CBC's Tom Harrington. "I feel like I'm paying people back, you know, and the Olympics I guess will be the final payoff, the last of the loan so to speak."