Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze did a series of interviews before the 2012 London Olympic Games, and now he recaps the year and looks forward.
Tell us how the Olympic Games in London went for you?
Taking part in the London 2012 Games was an extremely useful exercise for Derly Chin de Muze and me, although my goals were very different compared to four years earlier in Hong Kong with Hickstead. The Olympic Games was something that was never planned for Derly, but in the end I had no choice but to take her, and it turned out to be a very positive experience for both of us after we qualified for the individual final.
In my eyes, Nick Skelton owned the place, and it was apparent that everyone thought Big Star was the best horse of the Games. Steve Guerdat came in to steal it at the end; such a fighter with such a careful horse—he delivered an unbelievable performance to take it away from Nick. Once Steve put the pressure on, it made Nick make a mistake that he’d never usually do, but that’s the nature of the Olympics for you. I’m not trying to take anything away from Steve as he rode beautifully, but for me Big Star was the icon of not only London 2012 [jumping], but also the whole season.
Steve Guerdat is a personal friend of mine. I admire him immensely, and we always talk about everything—he’s just a great guy. Steve’s not always had it easy, and there have been times when he’s come to shows like [Geneva] with not as much quality in horses as other riders, but he’s stuck with it, and now has an absolute superstar horse in Nino des Buissonnets. The best is yet to come from Steve Guerdat, and I couldn’t be happier to hand over the [Olympic] title to him for the next four years.
How did the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament go for you?
It was an emotional competition for me mainly because of the planned tribute to Hickstead  on the Sunday before the CN International. I was hoping to do the grand prix with Coriana, but after walking the second round I just felt it was un-jumpable for her. I thought I could make it through the first round, but to compete her in the second would have been a punishment. It was obviously disappointing as it was the first time in a very long time that I haven’t participated in that event.
With something big happening, like Hickstead’s tribute at the end of the week, my mind wasn’t as focused as it should have been, so I was really ready for a break after that. [Lamaze took an extended break from showing in the fall.]
The tribute was fantastic and to hear the other riders speak about Hickstead was very moving for me. The team at Spruce Meadows did an incredible job with their presentation of the statue, and it seemed as though the crowd absolutely loved it. Hickstead wasn’t with us that day, but with the unveiling of the statue and the atmosphere from the crowd it seemed like he was.
What are your plans for the next few months?
I’m starting to ride again, and I’ve already purchased one very nice 6-year-old from Gilbert de Roock. I’ve also purchased a nice 7-year-old from Gilbert, and we are looking to add a further five or six young horses to the stable. I now want to restart my career, so to speak. My general plan is to build up some talented young horses myself and to eventually make a strong comeback in jumping. I’ve taken the decision to focus my time on the youngsters, and I hope it will all be worth it in the end. You never know… I could find a talented 8-year-old with good enough mileage for me to be back even sooner.
It’s very much a Rio [2016 Olympic Games] plan. I’m going to have to sacrifice a little bit of next year, but with any luck the 7-year-old will be ready to do some interesting things before Christmas [next year]. There will be a few personal challenges that I’m going to set myself, but generally 2013 will be all about building the team. Of course I’d like to be the No. 1 ranked rider in the world again and to be in contention to compete at the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, but there will be an emphasis on developing young talent, and I’ll be targeting young horse competitions such as the FEI World Championships in Lanaken (Belgium).
How is your attitude at the moment?
I’m feeling great! Time away from the sport was something that I really needed after losing Hickstead . In hindsight, I should have perhaps taken the break sooner and distanced myself from the sport to deal with things my own way, but I decided to keep going.
The break has given me a chance to re-evaluate the position that I’m in and to realize what it’s going to take to make a comeback. Two months away allowed me to think clearly and gave me the time to not make any rushed decisions. My golf handicap has also improved, especially my putting, so it’s been a constructive break as well!
Eric Lamaze, 44, has represented Canada at five FEI World Equestrian Games, four Pan American Games and the 2008 Olympic Games, where he won individual gold aboard Hickstead, the small but mighty stallion. He is a Rolex equestrian sports Testimonee and has topped the Rolex World Rider Rankings numerous times since 2008.