World Vaulting Champion and local hero Nicolas Andreani was greeted with rapturous applause by spectators at France’s biggest equestrian event, the Salon du Cheval de Paris, when he made his entrance into the FEI World Cup Vaulting series last weekend.
The 28-year-old winner of the FEI World Vaulting Championships 2012 in Le Mans left the judges in no doubt about his world-class abilities. His performance in two outstanding freestyle-to-music rounds on the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Just A Kiss, lunged by Marina Joosten Dupon, gave him a final score of 9,271 points.
“I’m so happy to have made such a good start in the series,” Andreani said. “I’m looking forward to replicating my performance at the leg in Leipzig next month, then again in Bordeaux in February and in the Final in Braunschweig.”
Andreani’s phenomenal routine put him 966 points ahead of his nearest rival and compatriot Ivan Nousse, bronze medallist at the FEI World Vaulting Championships 2012, whose smooth and expressive performance with Whisper, lunged by Elke Schelp-Lensing, earned a healthy 8,305 points.
Gabe Aniello (USA) on Pino del Rio, also lunged by Elke Schelp-Lensing, secured third place with 7,780 points. Jacques Ferrari, the upcoming 14-year-old Vaulting star from France, on Jasmin des Tours lunged by Maurine Weber gave a second-round performance the judges felt worthy of a World Championships, but a first-round mistake gave him a final score of 7,762 points for fourth place.
Carola Sneekes, a 27-year-old medical student at the University of Amsterdam, secured the first Dutch win in the history of the World Cup series. Partnered with the 12-year-old Nolan, lunged by her mother Marjo Sneekes, she completed with 8,061 points.
“I have enjoyed every single second of the FEI World Cup Vaulting in Paris!” said Sneekes, who has competed internationally since 2009 and beat the favourite, 25-year-old Alicen Divita (USA).
Divita, who finished 11th at this year’s FEI World Vaulting Championships, had travelled all the way from California to compete in Paris. She earned 7,889 points on her new horse Pino del Rio, lunged and trained by Elke Schelp-Lensing.
“I felt great on Pino del Rio, who I have just bought,” Divita said. “Because I had school, I was only able to come over one day before the competition. I had one practice on him, and I felt like I started right where we left off in Le Mans. I am really excited about him and finally having a horse of my own for international competitions.
“The competition itself was really fun,” she said. “The people were so friendly, many spectators came up to tell me how much they enjoyed watching my routines, and they were so welcoming.”
Her goal is now to come back to Germany and have some time to train on Paul, as Pino del Rio is known at home, so that she can earn enough points to qualify for the Final in Braunschweig.
Switzerland’s Pascale Wagner on Viva Alegria, lunged by Angela Huber, took third place with 7,815 points, with France’s Manon Noel on Kirch De La Love, lunged by Caroline Rabot, in fourth with 7,635 points.
All eyes are now on the last two legs of the World Cup series in Leipzig, Germany, from January 17 to 20, and Bordeaux, France, from February 8 to 10.
The top six male and female vaulters will then qualify for the Final in Braunschweig, from March 14 to 17.
Reporting: Daniel Kaiser