The 2008 Olympic champion and reigning bronze medallist from Rio has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour for the past three years but had been selected as one of five athletes on Canada’s Olympic shortlist, from which one individual rider will be selected after the country lost its team qualification at this year’s Olympics.
“My health is something that I take very seriously, and I’ve decided that Tokyo is not the best venue for me,” said 53-year-old Eric. “While my health is stable at the moment, there are several risk factors that have to be taken into consideration.”
Eric also attributes the lack of a Canadian showjumping team at the Olympics to be a factor in his decision.
“I’ve always associated the Olympics with riding for the Canadian team,” said Eric, who was part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he also won individual gold riding Hickstead.
“My success has been due to having my team-mates there to pull together to be the best that we can be for our country. Having my owners there, my friends and fellow team-mates, and all the fans is what makes the Olympics special for me.
“When you come into the stadium, and hear the fans screaming and see the Canadian flags waving, it raises you up to another level. As a solo act, I cannot see myself finding the motivation to dig deep enough to pull off an individual medal.
“I cannot be a true competitor without my team.”
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Eric and his team-mates jumped off against Germany for the bronze medal, finishing fourth, Eric going on to win bronze with Fine Lady 5 behind Great Britain’s Nick Skelton. Eric is Canada’s top-ranked rider, currently 23rd in the FEI world rankings.
“With all that we’ve lived through this past year, and what we are still seeing with so many people living through horrible situations both in Canada and around the world, I’m not sure I would even feel right winning a medal,” said Eric. “The Olympics are a celebration of the athletes and I don’t think we’re going to have a true celebration in Tokyo.
“It’s not the time to celebrate.”
Eric is currently under the support of his medical teams in Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France for his ongoing treatment for a brain tumour and has taken some time out from the sport. Eric has been back in the saddle since the start of the year, spending the winter months in Florida competing on the Winter Equestrian Festival, taking part in back-to-back five-star shows in Doha, Qatar, and was most recently seen in Saint-Tropez, France, earlier this month after international equestrian events were able to restart in Europe.
Eric says his decision was made with the full support of his Canadian owners, Mark and Tara Rein, who own his top horse Dieu Merci van T & L.
“I thank Mark and Tara Rein for their complete understanding of the situation and for their ongoing support,” he said. “With this difficult decision made, we can now concentrate on continuing to develop the fantastic young horses that we have in our training program.
“I’m also looking forward to next year’s World Championships, where our team will hopefully earn its qualification for the Paris Olympics. From there, I hope that our national federation, Equestrian Canada, will concentrate on putting together a fantastic program so our team can be at its best at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.”
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