An astounding 312 horses lined up for the FEI horse inspection on Tuesday at Spruce Meadows in Alberta.
But for one rider, ‘The National’ Tournament holds extra special meaning this year.
Canadian Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze returned to the Calgary venue for the first time since going public with his brain cancer diagnosis last month and wasted no time jumping straight to the top of the leaderboard.
Aboard his Olympic individual bronze medal winning partner Fine Lady 5, Lamaze topped a 14-horse jump off to take victory in The PwC Cup (1.50m), stopping the clock at 40.66. They were the only combination to cross the timers in under 41 seconds in the Peter Grant-designed course.
“It makes me happy to be riding, to be jumping, to be schooling, to be here at Spruce Meadows, to be jumping in front of the fans,” Lamaze told reporters.
“I’ve had so much support from this part of the world through all this, memories that I will never forget. So…for me to be here is, sort of, a dream at this point, looking back at the past year. So, it’s a bit emotional in that sense.”
The three-time Olympic medalist also took sixth place in the ATB Financial Cup 1.55m with a double clear aboard Chacco Kid. The only grand prix qualifier of the week was won by USA’s Beezie Madden and Darry Lou.