Former Olympic champion ‘crushed’ at being forced to retire, but focusing on new chef d’equipe role

  • Former Olympic champion Eric Lamaze has announced with “regret and sadness” that he has officially retired from competition.

    The Canadian showjumper, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, announced last November that he was “taking a sabbatical” from the sport owing to his health, and handing the reins to fellow Canadian showjumper Beth Underhill.

    “It’s with great sadness that I am making this decision,” said Eric, 53, who is based in Wellington, Florida, and Belgium.

    “There’s a part of me that feels really upset that I’ve been battling cancer with the hope of riding again and I’m crushed that that won’t be the case.

    “I’ve always said that I will retire under my own terms when the time is right. The situation with my health has forced me to make the decision earlier than I had envisioned, but the silver lining is that I still have the will to win and can contribute to the Canadian team and the sport I love through my new role as chef d’equipe.”

    Eric was appointed technical advisor, which includes acting as chef d’equipe, by Equestrian Canada in February.

    “Now I have to turn my focus to giving my knowledge back to my fellow riders,” he said.

    “I’ve always loved teaching and preparing horses and riders for major championships.  I will give these riders every opportunity I ever had myself and I have great ideas for the future. I want every Canadian rider to know that their dreams are my dreams, too. When they win, I win.”

    Eric has represented Canada at three Olympics; he and Hickstead won individual gold in 2008, when the team took silver, and he won individual bronze on Fine Lady 5 in 2016. He has ridden at seven World Equestrian Games, taking individual bronze on Hickstead in 2010, and five Pan Am Games in which he won four medals including team gold in 2015.

    His last competitive appearance, after a career that also featured major grand prix wins across the world, was at Spruce Meadows in his home country last September, when the Canadian team won the Nations Cup.

    Since he became chef d’equipe, Eric has led the Canadian team to second-place finishes in two Nations Cup competitions.

    “The new role has been much more time-consuming than I first imagined, but I love the energy that we’re creating and the path we’re heading down,” he said.

    “The excitement among the Canadian riders and the support they’ve given me has helped to make my decision much easier. What I’m giving up personally by not competing I’m gaining 10 times over by leading other Canadians on their journey to success. Yes, it’s bittersweet, but knowing that I can still make huge contributions to the sport in another role leaves me at peace with my decision.”

    Eric added: “There are so many people to say thank you to for my career, especially the owners who I will personally thank for trusting me with their horses.

    “I’m so sad to be making this announcement, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I am excited at the same time to still be able to play a role in the sport I love.”

    Equestrian Canada CEO Meg Krueger congratulated Eric Lamaze as he retired, on behalf of the federation.

    “On behalf of Equestrian Canada, I would like to thank him for his unwavering dedication and passion for equestrian sport over the past three decades,”she said.

    “His many unmatched achievements are an enduring legacy for Canadian showjumping history. We are saddened that we will no longer experience the joy and excitement of watching Eric compete as an athlete, but look forward to his contributions and success in leading our Canadian showjumping team into a bright future.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...