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Legendary rider retires age 72 after 10 Olympic appearances

Ian Millar, the showjumper who represented Canada at a record 10 Olympic Games, has retired from international competition.

The 72-year-old has been jumping at the top level for nearly five decades, winning his first Olympic medal in 2008 — team silver in Beijing — but has decided to focus his future efforts on teaching and producing young horses.

“Representing Canada many times over my career has been my greatest honour,” he said.  “Each time I wore the red team jacket was very special to me, and the fact that I was able to share this experience with so many great riders is a testament to the quality of horsemen and horsewomen in our country.”

Ian’s first Nations Cup team appearance came in 1971 and he went on to represent his country more than 200 times, including at seven world championships, winning 10 Pan American Games medals. His 10 Olympic appearances is a world record for any athlete across all sports.

He also won more than 150 grands prix, including a hat-trick at the prestigious Spruce Meadows Masters tournament and was the first rider to win back-to-back World Cup Finals in 1988 and 1989.

Ian is perhaps best known for his partnership with Big Ben, who became a household name during the late 1980s and 1990s.

“It has been the journey of a lifetime with so many dreams realised, so much due to the fantastic horses I was blessed to ride, to whom I am eternally grateful,” said Ian.

“I would like to thank my owners and sponsors for all their help and support during my show jumping career. While there are too many to name, my partnerships with owner Ann Matthews and sponsor BMO Financial Group had especially long and sustained successes.

“I would also like to thank all the members of my support team who have supported me faithfully over the years: my family, staff, veterinarians, equine therapists, chef d’equipes, and all my fellow riders.

“Finally, the biggest contributor to my success was my late wife, Lynn, with whom I shared my most cherished bond.  Through our partnership, we achieved incredible success.”

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Ian’s team-mate Eric Lamaze paid tribute by saying: “My first time representing Canada was in the Nations Cup competition at the 1993 Washington International Horse Show. It was my first time being part of the Canadian team alongside Ian Millar. I was intimidated to ride beside such a legend. He was very helpful and this is where I learned the whole aspect of riding on a team, riding for your country, and what it means. I’ve continued my team spirit today based on the lessons he’s taught me.

“Now we’ve ridden together on so many Olympic, World Championship, Pan American Games and Nations Cup teams. I’ve enjoyed all the fun times we had being on teams together and have so many stories. He just loved it so much.

“I felt what he has in his heart for Canada and I became the same. I became obsessed with team competition and I encourage young riders today to take riding for Canada very seriously. Through the years I have watched him, without him even realising, and seen his pure love of the horse and his love of competition. Even as my own career has played out, he has always remained a hero to me.

“It doesn’t matter what any other Canadian rider does in the future, his name stands alone as a legend for Canada.”

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