Bromont’s favourite son, “Super Mario” Deslauriers, will again be riding for Canada, starting immediately.
The 52-year-old, who was born in Venise, Quebec, switched allegiance to the United States in 2010 after becoming a U.S. citizen in September of 2009, a move that was driven primarily by a desire to help advance his career by going where the owners with the deep pockets resided, and possibly because he was overlooked for the 2008 Beijing Olympics squad. He rode Jane Clark’s top show jumpers for several years before they went their separate ways after the 2012 Olympic trials.
When asked why he is making the switch back now, he replied, “For a few years I really didn’t have any horses that were worth doing it and also I needed to wait two years, so there was no hurry.”
At 19, Mario became the youngest rider ever to win the World Cup show jumping final, stunning fans in Goteborg, Sweden in 1984 aboard Aramis. He represented Canada at two Olympics ‒ Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 ‒ narrowly missing out on a bronze medal with Aramis in a three-horse jump-off in the former. He twice earned the title of Canadian Show Jumping Champion, in 1992 (Alemao) and 1997 (Amistad). He has won the Canadian World Cup League four times (1988, 1994, 1998 and 2000) and represented Canada on over 20 Nations’ Cup teams.
Mario competed in grand prix across North America, returning every year to Bromont, home of his father, Roger, for the Bromont International, winning both the World Cup class and the Grand Prix there in 2009. More recently, he won Pepsi Challenge at the 2015 Spruce Meadows North American riding Scout de la Cense and the Omega Alpha Cup at the Spruce Meadows National in 2016 with Cherrypop.
Mario, a father of three, is married to rider Lisa Tarnopol Deslauriers, a NY real estate broker who is also the chair of the Hampton Classic board of directors. Their 18-year-old daughter Lucy is already earning accolades on the international circuit. His home and training centre is on 30 acres in the Hamptons community in Water Mill, NY. “My wife Lisa and I just finished building our barn ‒ it’s our second summer out here.”
Regarding the rules about switching back, an FEI spokesperson explained, “The FEI rules do not prevent athletes from changing their sport nationality more than once or switching back to their previous sport nationality, as long as they comply with the applicable requirements of the FEI General Regulations.” This in part becomes a matter of playing the waiting game. “There was no problem with me being Canadian ‒ I have always had my passport ‒ the problem was that the FEI needed me to wait two years without showing in a Nations Cup or a World Cup,” said Mario, a dual citizen. “A couple of years ago I helped my dad [at Bromont] because he didn’t have so many horses [in the World Cup] so I kind of messed up my two years. That’s why I didn’t show in the World Cup this year ‒ my date was right after the show.”
His first outing sporting the maple leaf again will be at the Spruce Meadows Masters, Sept. 6-10 in Calgary, AB, where he is scheduled to ride on the Nations Cup team. “I will ride a horse called Westbrook, a grey horse I was fourth on at the Queen Elizabeth II Cup [this July]. I’m only going to take that one because my other one, Bardolina 2, is only eight years old ‒ a bit young to bring all the way out to Calgary and expect too much out of her. She needs one more year to get ready.”
Another of his current string includes the good mare Cherrypop. “She got hurt in Florida and hasn’t shown since then. I hope to have her back soon.” All three horses are owned by client and owner Roz Shaffer of Wishing Well Farm LLC.
In the Canadian equestrian world one could almost liken this development to LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s not that big,” Mario said, laughing. “For me anyway, it’s good to be back in Canada and have the chance to ride on the team. I am excited to be back and excited to be showing at the Masters. It’ll be fun!”