‘Captain Canada’ aiming for record 11th Olympic appearance in Rio, aged 69

Show jumper Ian Millar, whose first Games were Munich 1972, has helped his nation qualify for Rio 2016.

He is known as Captain Canada. There is a statue of him and his horse Big Ben in a park in his home town of Perth, Ontario. It is not surprising. Ian Millar, already a legend in show jumping, etched his name into sporting history at London 2012, setting a new record for the most appearances in Olympic Games when he surpassed Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl’s nine. Now the 69-year-old hopes to make it 11 at the Rio 2016 Games.

While the Canadian equestrian team has yet to be selected, Millar pushed his case by helping Canada win team gold at last year’s Pan-American Games in Toronto, earning them a place in Rio. There is a Facebook page calling for him to be flag bearer at the Maracanã Stadium, and the man himself has clearly lost none of determination.

“My motivation stems from my love of horses and passion for sport. My commitment to both is as strong today as it was when I first started”

Ian Millar


Millar, however, was very much focused on practical preparations rather than emotional appeals when rio2016.com asked him about the prospect of competing in Brazil. “The focus of my preparation for the 2016 Games centres around my horses,” he said in his emailed reply. “Dixson is my most experienced partner and at major championships such experience is a great asset. We have a conditioning and competition schedule outlined for Dixson leading up to the Games.”

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His son Jonathon and daughter Amy have also represented Canada in show jumping, and Millar senior admitted it would be special to experience another Olympic Games alongside them. “There is nothing more rewarding for me than being in the sport and the business of horses with my daughter and my son,” he said.  “It would be a dream come true to ride with them in Rio.”

Millar’s first Olympic Games were Munich 1972 and his total would already be 11, had Canada not joined the boycott of the Moscow 1980 Games. He won his first, and so far only, Olympic medal at the Beijing 2008 Games, a silver in the team event, becoming the oldest show jumper to stand on the podium, at the age of 61.

Sadly, 2008 was also the saddest year of Millar’s life. Months earlier, he lost his wife of 39 years, Lynn, to cancer. He dedicated the medal to her, saying: “I had an angel riding with me.”

In London he competed on Star Power, finishing ninth in the individual event and fifth in the team competition. At the time, he said: “I am better now than I was when I started. The age of the top riders tends to be older because it takes a lot of time to be consistent.”

So what is the secret to remaining competitive all this time? “It is vital to keep up with the evolution of the sport, to see where it is going and prepare,” he told rio2016.com.

Millar would not become the oldest Olympian in Rio: that honour goes to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who was 72 at the Antwerp 1920 Games. Millar would have to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games to surpass Swahn. And it would be unwise to write him off.

“I am in show jumping because I love it and I am having fun. As long as I have competitive horses I anticipate that I will continue to enjoy the sport”

source: Rio2016 website