Eric Lamaze wins Canada's first ever Individual Olympic Gold!!!

HONG KONG - Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, Ont., captured the show-jumping title Thursday at the Beijing Games, giving Canada its first-ever individual equestrian gold.

Lamaze, aboard Hickstead, posted consecutive clean runs in his first two rounds before winning a jump-off with Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson for his second medal of the Games.

Lamaze was also part of the Canadian team that won silver in the team jump Monday.

Thursday's victory caps a remarkable turnaround for Lamaze. The 40-year-old missed out on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Games in Sydney because of drug suspensions. Though he had his lifetime ban for a second drug offence overturned in time for the Sydney Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee wouldn't let him compete.

Lamaze took full advantage of his second chance Thursday.

"When you give people chances and allow them to learn from their mistake, great things happen," Lamaze said prior to the medal ceremony. "It's a perfect example that people can do great things in their life, it doesn't matter what has happened."

Lamaze enjoyed a clean run in the first round, one of 10 riders to post a perfect score. Knowing he would need another perfect run to earn a jump-off with Bengtsson, Lamaze guided Hickstead through the Shatin equestrian course without a fault to earn at least a silver.

Bengtsson earned four jumping faults in the jump-off, setting the stage for Lamaze's third perfect run of the night - and Canada's third gold medal of the Games.

It's just the second individual show jumping medal for Canada in Olympic history. Michel Vaillancourt won an individual silver medal at the 1976 Games in Montreal.

"Michel's one of my greatest friends," Lamaze said. "I'm honoured to be named in the same category as him.

"It's going to take a while to sink in."

Canada's only other equestrian gold came in team jumping at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Lamaze praised Hickstead following the competition.

"So many things can go wrong," said Lamaze, who entered the Beijing Olympics ranked fourth in the world. "You hope your horse comes up on biggest day, and mine sure did.

"He's one of a kind."

Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., did not finish her second run after picking up four jumping faults in the first round.

Ian Millar of Perth, Ont., had eight jumping faults in the opening round and failed to advance to the final.

I've added a video link!!

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Wow! It's incredible that Show Jumping has become the big "feel good" story of the Olympics for Canada.

Makes me want to get right out there and start jumping myself (for joy!!!).
Way to go Eric and Way to go Hickstead! What an incredible sport horse!! They make a great pair and it is wonderful to see a local lad do so well!!! :)
Go Canada! At our barn we had someone come in all excited and quickly spread the word around the barn that Canada had won its first ever Individual jumper gold! Not only the first but it was won by underdog Eric! After his drug suspension he came back and showed the world anyone can turn their life around.


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