Ian Millar speaks to reporters at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Millar, a ten-time Olympian, announced his retirement from international competiton on Wednesday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

All-time Olympian Millar retires at 72

Ian Millar is finally retiring from international equestrian competition.

Kind of hard to imagine, he’s with us for what seems as long as anyone can remember.

A real-life Canadian icon

Ian Millar takes Big Ben over a jump in the Olympic team jumping competition, in Seoul on Sept. 28, 1988. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Millar won only one Olympic medal in a record 10 Games, but his grace, decency and humility made him a guy Canadians really wanted to root for.

Millar made his first Olympic appearance at the ill-fated Munich Games in 1972, missed the 1980 Moscow Games because of a political boycott, and made his final Olympic appearance in London in 2012.

Every time an Olympics approached, there was Millar being asked about his chances of medaling, something he did just once: winning silver in the team jumping event in Beijing in 2008, never mind that he won medals galore in other competitions.

Most famously, he was part of a combo that leaped well past the sports pages in 1988 and 1989 when Millar and his gorgeous, chestnut-coloured partner, Big Ben, became the first-ever horse and rider combination to win back-to-back World Cup finals.

The love affair between the pair seemed to touch the hearts of Canadians across the country, even those who couldn’t tell you the difference between a bridle and a saddle.

Millar, it seemed, was never going to leave and had no desire to do so.

In 2015, at the age of 68, he won gold in the team jumping event at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

He’s 72 now.

Ian Millar competes in the equestrian team jumping during the Pan American Games in Caledon, Ont., July 23, 2015. Canada won gold. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

On Wednesday, he announced he was going to focus on coaching up and coming athletes and horses.

“If you stay at the party so long they turn the lights out, you’ve stayed too long,” he said.

“I’ve got good Maritime genes on both sides.

“My wife took very good care of me for many years. I tried to stay on good horses. I tried to stay fit and take care of my health. And you’ve got your luck. I’ve been fortunate in many ways.”

A bronze statue of Miller riding Big Ben sits in his hometown of Perth, Ontario.

Big Ben is buried at Millar’s farm nearby.

Millar appeared in more Olympics than any other Canadian.

With files, from CP, CBC, CTV, Global

Categories: International, Society
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