Canada’s 2008 Olympic champion showjumper Eric Lamaze is taking a break from the sport for the rest of the year.
Lamaze, who is currently competing at the Spruce Meadows “Masters” Tournament, will step out of the competition arena following the international event in Calgary, Alberta. In his last competitive appearance of 2012, Lamaze will defend the title he claimed in the $1 million CN International last year in front of 89,632 fans with the legendary Hickstead.
“After many great years of contesting the sport at the top level for 12 months of the year, week in and week out, I’m looking forward to taking a little break and enjoying myself by travelling and playing a little golf,” said Lamaze, 44.
Since winning the $1 million CN International in 2007 at Spruce Meadows, a feat he would repeat in 2011, Lamaze has travelled to international show jumping tournaments almost weekly from his base in Belgium, while also spending the winter season in Florida at the highly competitive 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival. Team Silver and Individual Bronze Medals at the 2007 Pan American Games were followed by a Team Silver and historic Individual Gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. From there, Lamaze’s schedule continued to grow more and more intense, with major grand prix victories claimed around the globe as well as an Individual Bronze Medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the ‘Best Horse Award’ for Hickstead.
In November of 2011, Lamaze was dealt a devastating blow when Hickstead collapsed and died at a world cup qualifying event in Italy. While Lamaze questioned whether he could continue in the sport, he made the difficult decision to move forward, helped by the strength and support of his owners, teammates, sponsors and fans.
“The past 10 month have been an extremely difficult and emotional time for me,” said Lamaze, who has dominated the world rankings since becoming Olympic Champion four years ago.
“The London Olympics were supposed to be Hickstead’s Games, and I never imagined that I would go without him. It is hard to describe how difficult it was to lose Hickstead, and yet not want to let down my country, my teammates and everyone who has stood beside me.”
Lamaze continued, “Now, with the support of my owners, especially the Ziegler and Fleischhacker families, I am able to take a step back and enjoy a break after a long season. It’s long overdue. Everyone on my team has worked very hard over the past couple of years, and everyone, including the horses, deserves to have a little break from the gruelling demands of international competition.”
Although he will continue to coach his students, including Tiffany Foster as well as Andy Ziegler and his daughter, Caitlin, of Artisan Farms, Lamaze does not plan to return to competition ring himself until the 2013 season.
“My current horses will have a rest after an intense season, and I’m looking into securing some new prospects for the future,” said Lamaze. “It’s exciting to be able to take my time to rebuild and re-energize our program, and return to the ring at a slower pace with a very competitive string of horses.”