World champion and local hero Nicolas Andreani (FRA) and Swiss national champion Simone Jäiser (SUI) celebrated victories this weekend at the fifth and last leg of the FEI World Cup Vaulting series in Bordeaux, France.
Andreani, 28, vaulting on Just A Kiss HN lunged by Marina Joosten Dupon, won on 9,154 points and was in a class of his own in the men’s category.
The French vaulter, who was injured during last year’s final, said: “Last year I was in Bordeaux as a commentator for French television and I saw how fascinating Vaulting was for spectators. That made me want to be back at the centre of the ring. It is great to perform in such a large arena in front of so many people.”
This year the freestyle specialist demonstrated the full scope of his talent and scored marks above 9.1 in both rounds, defeating the remaining four male vaulters by a substantial margin.
This is Andreani’s third victory of the season after his wins in Paris (FRA) and Leipzig (GER). He is now the highest ranked male vaulter in the lead up to the series’ Final, which will be held at Braunschweig (GER) from March 14-17.
“Bordeaux went really well. It has given me confidence going into the final in a month’s time,” Andreani said. “It was a good way for me to identify some weaker elements in my freestyle and I’ll be focusing on them in my upcoming training sessions. Reuniting with Just a Kiss HN and Marina was a real pleasure,” he added.
Andreani’s fellow countryman Ivan Nousse, bronze medallist at last year’s FEI World Vaulting Championships, took second place on 7,938 points vaulting on Carlos lunged by Elke Schelp-Lensing. In the first round he fell off the horse and had one full point deducted from his score to leave him in fourth place, but his performance in the second round was much better, allowing him to take the runner-up slot.
“I hadn’t trained much on Carlos these past weeks and it wasn’t a big surprise that I had a miss at the beginning. But I’m happy with my second freestyle routine,” Nousse said.
Koen Akkerman (NED), 21, who competed on Luk lunged by Rita Blieske, placed third on 7,370 points.
Simone Jäiser of Switzerland finished on 8,336 points on Luk, lunged by her mother Rita Blieske, and celebrated her first World Cup victory of the season.
Bordeaux was 26-year-old Jäiser’s fourth participation in the series. In Munich (GER) and Salzburg (AUT) she placed third and was runner-up in Leipzig (GER). In Bordeaux she impressed with a powerful performance which contained some striking strength elements.
“It was really fun for me to compete in Bordeaux,” Jäiser said.
“In the first round I had a very bad landing after a jump in the freestyle and for a short moment I was knocked out of my stride. The second competition was superb and I enjoyed it very much. My horse Luk was fantastic too and I’m very proud of him. His canter was more fluent and it was wonderful to do my gymnastics on him.
“We didn’t know whether he would be able to remain calm in such big competitions, but he showed us that we can trust him completely. I’m convinced that he will improve even more and next season he’ll score even higher marks,” she said.
Despite her win in Bordeaux, Jäiser is not top favourite to win the World Cup title in Braunschweig next month. Her main rival, eight-time Italian champion Anna Cavallaro, who won the qualifiers in Munich, Salzburg and Leipzig, and who leads the series’ standings, was not competing in Bordeaux.
“I am in good form and will do my best in Braunschweig,” Jäiser said. “My dream is always the victory but my realistic goal for the FEI World Cup Vaulting Final is second place. I would be so happy with that.”
Carola Sneekes (NED), a 27-year-old medical student at the University of Amsterdam, finished second with 7,475 on Bach Z, lunged by Linda Robben.
Manon Noël (FRA) on Kirch de la Love, lunged by Caroline Rabot, took the third place with 7,439 points. She was competing with a wild card and was greeted with rapturous applause by the enthusiastic spectators.
The World Cup Final is open to the top six senior male and six senior female vaulters after the five qualifiers. It will be held over three days and will include a warm-up competition and the World Cup itself, which is run over two rounds.
The six qualified male vaulters are: Nicolas Andreani (FRA), 45 points; Lukas Klouda (CZE), 43; Ivan Nousse (FRA), 35; Torben Jacobs (GER), 33; Gabe Aniello (USA), 27; and Koen Akkerman (NED), 23. The wild card goes to 18-year-old Thomas Brüsewitz (GER), junior male champion at the FEI Open European Vaulting Championships 2011, who finished second at the FEI World Cup Vaulting qualifier in Leipzig in January.
The female representatives in Braunschweig will be: Anna Cavallaro (ITA), 45 points; Simone Jäiser (SUI), 39; Carola Sneekes (NED), 37; Regina Burgmayr (GER), 29; Pascale Wagner (SUI), 23; and Kristina Boe (GER), 13. The wild card in the female category has been awarded to 20-year old Jennifer Braun (GER).
Silvia Stopazzini (ITA), who was second in Munich and Salzburg and was considered the only vaulter likely to challenge Cavallaro’s supremacy, was not in a position to continue competing in 2013.
“Unfortunately the horse Harley was available to me only until December 2012, because I changed clubs in 2013. My own new horse is not ready yet for such important competitions. I tried to find another horse but it was mission impossible. I decided to walk out with my head held high and to come back next year,” said the 19-year old European Junior Vaulting champion of 2011.
Bordeaux winners Andreani and Cavallaro made no secret of their plans for Braunschweig. “That’s the town where I want to win,” Cavallaro said.
“I am European and a world champion,” Nicolas Andreani said, “but I have never won an FEI World Cup Vaulting Final. I am a sportsman and an artist at heart and my goal is always to win but not without moving the spectators I’m performing for. The final will be an emotional experience for me because it will probably be the last time I will be executing the painter routine. Winning the final will be an amazing way to end a fantastic season, ” the Frenchman added.
Reporting: Daniel Kaiser