World Champion Nicolas Andreani and eight-time national champion Anna Cavallaro won the major titles at the weekend’s FEI World Cup Vaulting Final at the Löwen Classics in Braunschweig in Germany.
Andreani (France), vaulting on Carlos and lunged by Elke Schelp-Lensing, was crowned champion with 8,829 points, just 37 points ahead of Germany’s Thomas Brüsewitz, while Cavallaro (Italy) on Harley lunged by Nelson Vidoni secured her first international triumph with 8,972 points, a healthy 304 points ahead of Switzerland’s Simone Jäiser.
Andreani, now 28, fulfilled his dream of winning his first final after coming close in 2011, when he was beaten in the second round by then World Champion Patric Looser (SUI).
However, his success was not without drama. Just two days before the final, Andreani had to switch horses because his 16-year-old gelding Just A Kiss suffered an injury. His compatriot Ivan Nousse stepped in and they both vaulted on Carlos.
“I came to win,” Andreani announced assertively before the competition. He also wanted to give the packed arena an emotional performance. Personifying an eccentric painter, he did just that while demonstrating perfect gymnastic ability and style. Afterwards, he thanked Elke Schelp-Lensing (GER), and said: “Carlos is a fantastic horse. Vaulting on him was amazing. I am now focusing on the FEI Open European Vaulting Championships in Ebreichsdorf in Austria this August and the World Equestrian Games in Normandy next year, where I will have a brand new performance theme.”
Thomas Brüsewitz, who finished on 8,792 points, and third-placed Ivan Nousse, who was bronze medalist at the FEI World Vaulting Championships for Seniors in Le Mans last year and scored 8,591 points in Braunschweig, also performed impressively at the final.
“This feels amazing,”said the 18-year-old. “In my first freestyle I had two mistakes. My mount on was not great, and also a jump was not clear. But in the second round I had nothing to lose, and I was able to concentrate better on the details of my movements”.
Lunged by Irina Lenkeit on 22-year-old Airbus, a very experienced horse who competed at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 in Kentucky, Brüsewitz showed his dynamism, strength and original handstand elements, which won rapturous applauds from the audience.
“Thomas showed the full potential of his huge talent,” said German national coach Ulla Ramge. “He really impressed me with his ability to focus on the essentials at the right moment. We are very proud to have such a great athlete with a big future.”
Italy’s 26-year-old Anna Cavallaro was ecstatic after winning the third FEI World Cup Vaulting Final, following in the footsteps of Simone Wiegele (GER) who won the inaugural Final in Leipzig in 2011 and 2012 champion Joanne Eccles (GBR).
She was a clear favourite, after taking the top spots at the qualifiers in Munich, Salzburg and Leipzig with 15-year-old Harley and lunger Nelson Vidoni.
With her virtually error-free and outstanding performance to the song Time To Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli, she comfortably won both rounds.
“After three wins I really hoped for victory at the Final,” Cavallaro said. “This success is very good for vaulting in Italy – it really helps the sport when one vaulter wins such an important title.”
One of the first people to congratulate her was Italian Equestrian Federation President Antonella Dallari. “My phone rings the whole time!”, laughed Cavallaro at the press conference. “It’s a nice feeling to win. I hope to repeat it soon”.
Second-placed Simone Jäiser (SUI), lunged by her mother Rita Blieske on Luk, finished on 8,668 points after her burlesque-style choreography by Daniel Kenel to music by Christina Aguilera.
Showing a huge number of elements – 22 in total with all transitions – and an impressive theatrical performance in a striking black and purple outfit, she really made an impression.
Germany’s wild card Jennifer Braun, currently ranked second nationally and lunged by Verena Rosenkranz on Willow, finished on 8,477 points, beating off several international vaulters. “I can’t believe that this has really happened. My aim was not to be last, and in the end I have a podium spot! Now I’m hungry for more,” the 20-year-old said.
“We are delighted with the success of the FEI World Cup Vaulting Final here in Braunschweig”, said Löwen Classics Director Axel Milkau. “It was breathtaking to see what the vaulters were capable of, and everyone was very impressed. We should keep campaigning for this sport.”
Bettina de Rham, FEI Director, Vaulting, Driving & Reining, said the vaulters, lungers and horses were clearly very well prepared, resulting in outstanding performances.
“We introduced a warm up competition for the first time at this final. This allowed the horses, lungers and vaulters to get used to the big arena and the public, and proved to be a winning formula,” she said.
“The arena was packed throughout the final and the enthusiasm was incredible. Vaulting is getting the recognition it deserves and we are now looking forward to organising the next series”.
Reporting: Daniel Kaiser