Anna Cavallaro (ITA) and world champion Nicolas Andreani (FRA) defended their FEI World Cup Vaulting titles in Bordeaux (FRA) at the weekend with stirring performances, while double world and European pas-de-deux champions Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha (AUT) made history by winning the first pas-de-deux Final in this exciting series.
A total of 18 vaulters from eight nations travelled to the famous Jumping International of Bordeaux to perform their freestyle choreographies.
Austria’s pas-de-deux superstars Lindner and Wacha, favourites after winning the 2012 FEI World Vaulting Championship in Le Mans (FRA) and storming to victory at the FEI European Vaulting Championships 2013 in Ebreichsdorf (AUT), faced their hardest test yet in Bordeaux – their experienced 17-year-old gelding Elliot was having a well-deserved winter break. So the pair took up the offer from Dutch team coach Maurits de Vries (NED) of KCM Vaultinghorses Bram, and the match was a great success. Performing to “Heart’s a Mess” by Gotye with lunger Klaus Haidacher, they received the maximum 10 points from German judge Jochen Schilffarth in the first round, leading to a stunning final score of 8,783 points and huge applause.
“We enjoyed it so much, and it was one of our best-ever freestyles”, the 18-year-old student Lindner said proudly, who trains with Lukas Wacha seven times a week before big competitions. Wacha’s personal highlight was the audience, which started to clap during the crescendo of the choreography. “We were confused for a second, and waited for a reaction from Bram, but he was calm and we decided to end our freestyle clapping too”, he said.
German duo Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs, bronze medalists at last year’s FEI European Vaulting Championships, finished second with 8,353 points on Danny Boy lunged by Alexandra Knauf. “They’ve improved a lot since the European Championships, and their fluid performance and focus this winter has set them in good stead for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, where they’ll be strong challengers to Lukas and Jasmin”, said German chef d’equipe Ulla Ramge.
Stefanie Millinger and Evelyn Freund from Salzburg (AUT) completed the top three with a score of 7,837 on Robin, lunged by Nina Rossin.
FEI World Cup Vaulting champion Anna Cavallaro from Verona (ITA) yet again convinced the judges of her star quality with Harley, lunged by her coach Nelson Vidoni, retaining the title with 8,522 points. “This has not been easy – Simone Jäiser is a wonderful vaulter,” said Cavallaro of her closest rival, who finished second on Luk, lunged by her mother Rita Blieske (8,361 points).
Cavallaro was ecstatic to have a special guest in Bordeaux in Gianfranco Ravá, the President of the Italian Equestrian Federation. “I’m very proud of Anna,” he said. “She is the first vaulter in Italy to reach these heights. She is an ambassador for the sport, and many young girls emulate her. Vaulting is growing in Italy like never before, which is fantastic.”
The Netherlands’ Esther Sneekes, 27, lunged by her sister Carola Sneekes on Nolan to a Knights Templar theme, finished third in the female individual Final with 7,421 points, claiming the country’s first-ever World Cup podium spot.
With two French contenders in the male individual Final – the world and defending FEI World Cup Vaulting champion Nicolas Andreani and European champion Jacques Ferrari – the crowds went wild in Bordeaux.
Andreani, performing for the first time in competition on 10-year-old gelding Quiece d’Aunis, and lunged by his coach Marina Dupon Joosten, scored a remarkable 8,826 points. “It’s a great feeling defending the title,” said Andreani. “I feel like I’m close to the end of my career and I’m being celebrated like a rock star.”
Ferrari, vaulting on Poivre Vert lunged by François Athimon, finished second on 8,563 points with his Swan Lake-inspired routine choreographed by Roman Bernard.
Lukas Heppler (SUI), fourth at last year’s Final, and fifth the year before, finally realised his dreams in Bordeaux claiming his first FEI World Cup Vaulting podium spot with 8,219 points on Luk, lunged by Rita Blieske. “I knew that third place was possible, and in the second round I was calm and collected. This is the best beginning I could ever have wished for for this year’s vaulting season!” said Heppler.
Bettina de Rham, FEI Director Vaulting, Driving and Reining said the Pas-de-deux had boosted the series, and it had been a huge success with the public at every leg. “Well choreographed routines have also been a trademark for this series. This has had a major impact on artistic scores, as well as showing the public just how amazing vaulting is as a spectator sport.”
Reporting: Daniel Kaiser