Olympian reduced to tears
On the phone with the owners of her horse, Hawley Bennett-Awad broke into tears.
She was on the phone with Terry and Linda Paine, shortly after being nominated for the Canadian eventing team for this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Bennett-Awad has been chosen to ride for Canada aboard her horse Gin & Juice.
“I just started crying. There have been so many ups and downs along the way,” said Bennett-Awad, on the phone with The Times on Monday. She was on her way back to California after competing at the Bromont CCI*** eventing show at the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park in Quebec.
Bennett-Awad placed fourth.
The competition also served as the selection trials for the Canadian eventing team.
Eventing is an equestrian sport which comprises dressage, cross-country and show jumping.
“This has always been the goal and to finally be told that yes, you are going, it is a big relief,” she said.
Bennett-Awad, a 35-year-old from Langley, will be making her second appearance at the Olympics, having also represented Canada in Athens in 2004.
She helped Canada finish 12th in the team competition but did not place in the individual event.
“That was my first time, so I was super excited to go,” she said.
“The excitement of not being my first time is gone. I have a really good horse and am more experienced.
“I want a top 10 finish (but) it would be amazing to get up on the podium.”
While Bennett-Awad was chasing her dream this weekend in Quebec, she did so with mixed feelings.
“For me, it was a very emotional weekend because I had to miss my brother’s wedding,” she said about the nuptials of her older brother, Mike Bennett and his fiancee Jessica.
“It was really hard because I am so close to him.
“He is my best friend and has been my father figure for the last 16 or 17 years, so it was really tough to not be there and be a part of that.”
With that weighing on her mind, she said the weekend was one of the toughest competitions she had endured mentally.
While the weekend may have been tough, Bennett-Awad is glad it is over and the team has been nominated.
The official team, featuring five riders plus an alternate, will be named on July 5.
“Now the pressure is off and you can relax and focus on your training,” she said.
“You know that you are going and can work on your own fitness as well as your horse’s.”
Bennett-Awad will continue working — she operates Hawley Bennett Eventing out of KingsWay Farms in southern California — for the rest of the month and then leave for training camp in Virginia on July 1.
The Canadian team departs for London on July 9.
The Olympic Games run from July 27 to August 12.
Disappointed when she didn’t qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing, Bennett-Awad is thrilled for another crack at the Olympics.
The track will be hilly and long for the cross-country,
“You need a horse that will be fast and quick and that is exactly what she (Gin & Juice) is.”
Bennett-Awad is no stranger to international success, helping Canada win silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and the another silver medal at the Pan American Games in 2011.
The silver at the World Equestrian Games was Canada’s first medal at a major world equestrian championship since 1978 and qualified Canada for the 2012 Olympics.
She thanked her husband, Gamal Awad, her mom, Gerry Bennett, and the rest of her family and friends.
“They are the people who have been through the good and the bad,” she said.
“I know who they are.
“You don’t get to this spot without good a good support team of owners, grooms, sponsors.
“I am very, very lucky I have a good group of people around me and am thankful for that.”