At a press conference held earlier today in Toronto, it was revealed that an acute aortic rupture was the cause of Hicksteadā€™s sudden death, Sunday, November 6th, in Italy.

An emotional Eric Lamaze recounted the tragedy, which took place following their round at the FEI World Cup qualifier in Verona ā€“ a 13-jump effort, in which the pair had just one rail down.

“He jumped very well the first and second day, and actually jumped very well the last day,” an said Lamaze. “He just collapsed. Nothing was unusual with the round. Even the last jump felt normal.

“It’s hard for me to remember what happened, but he collapsed. I was far away from him. He made sure he didn’t injure me in the process.”

Hickstead was healthy going into the competition, said Lamaze, who added that he had been examined by a veterinarian two to three times a week. “I wouldn’t have taken him if he wasn’t in the best of shape.ā€

Lamaze said Hickstead would have likely retired in the next couple of years and that the duo had been aiming to compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games.