New Zealand’s vaulting team has proved the find of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France, making it through to Friday’s final.
It is the first time New Zealand has been represented by a team at the world championships.
The team finished ninth in their debut in the compulsory test on Monday, but on Wednesday really shone with their Lorde-inspired freestyle, placing 10th for an overall seventh placing from the 17 teams.
Teams from other more established vaulting countries struggled in the close atmosphere of the Zenith Arena in Caen, but the six strong team from the Kapiti Vaulting Cub exuded confidence, being rewarded for their brave moves.
New Zealand are aboard a borrowed horse – Ikarus (owned by Karin Kiontke and Antonia Schubert) comes from the Pegasus Muhlacker Club in Germany where the New Zealand has been preparing for the world champs.
The athletes range in age from 11 through to 21 years old, and the team comprises six vaulters, two reserves and two trainers.
The team is – Vaulters: Danielle Schwabe, Brooke Dunstan, Lily-Claire Palmer, Georgi Curran, Rhyanne Vasta, Evangeline Goldie, Grace Williamson, Jennifer Ponne. Coaches: Catarina Strom, Verena Fiess.
Germany leads the team rankings by 0.47 marks ahead of Switzerland, and the Austrians, who were overnight leaders, drop down into third on a combined score of 7.907. Despite the team horse, Delia 99, having a nervy entrance, the team put in a strong performance, starting with two of the team performing roll up somersault mounts on either side of the horse simultaneously to commence some beautifully balanced Pas des Deux work.
The flyer displayed incredible balance when lifted by the base with a one handed full extension into a Bielman Arabesque, however the assisted landing was dropped and she fell quite heavily off the inside of the horse. This, the only error to spoil an otherwise immaculately controlled test, would have been penalised, and yet the Freestyle achieved an incredible mark of 8.928.
The all female Swiss team were all noticeably of similar size apart from the flyer and showed incredible control whilst assisting and lifting one another with ease throughout their slick Freestyle. The synchronicity of the team was second to none and the choreography combined some brilliantly executed R elements including a fully extended and perfectly straight handstand by the flyer being held above the base at full arm extension with incredible balance.
The Austrians had extremely dynamic music to accompany their Roman warrior theme which the choreography was perfectly on point with. Unfortunately there were several times the vaulters showed imbalance and there were some missed holds but the horse, Alessio I Amabile, did not help this by losing rhythm and breaking into trot twice during the test.
The South African squad produced an inspiring and emotional performance based on the principle of equality in both sport and life, and the voice of the late and much-loved South African statesman, Nelson Mandela, added an extra poignancy to their programme. Many spectators and officials were seen brushing tears from their eyes as an essay on tolerance and reconciliation was played out, and although the relatively inexperienced squad had to settle for ninth place, on a mark of 6.901 at the end of the day, they left a deep impression on all who saw them perform.
Further down the line there was drama of a different kind when 10-year-old Dorottya Gönczi took a long fall during a routine with the Hungarian squad that finished in 11th place. Undeterred however, and demonstrating the precise nature of the best athletes in every sport, the brave young lady just picked herself up, dusted herself off and then got back to work right away.
The top 12 teams go forward to the final on Friday evening to decide the medals.
Jacques Ferrari has now scored back-to-back wins following Tuesday’s opening success in the Male Individual Compulsory. World champion, and fellow-Frenchman, Nicolas Andreani has been right on his heels each time and challenged strongly again.
World reserve-champion Erik Oese moved into third. The 26-year-old pipped Andreani for the Male title at CHIO Aachen last summer and was runner-up behind the Frenchman at Ebreichsdorf. With his horse, Calvador, and his lunger Andreas Bassler, Oese lies 0.276 off the lead.
Meanwhile Lambert Leclezio from Mauritius has been attracting a lot of attention for his empathy with his horse, Timothy van de Wilhelminah, and for his natural athleticism. The vaulter who has arrived at the Games through support from the FEI Solidarity programme has put in a lot of work to get here, including travelling all the way to Australia in order to compete at a level that would earn qualification for the Games.
Performing to “I dreamed a dream” from the musical “Les Miserables”, Great Britain’s Joanne Eccles won the Freestyle competition partnering her family’s horse WH Bentley who is lunged by he father, John.
Her score of 8.619 leaves her with a lead of just 0.075 ahead of Tuesday’s winner, Denmark’s Rikke Laumann, who finished second. Switzerland’s Simone Jaiser lined up fourth behind Italy’s Anna Cavallaro, but Jaiser goes into Friday’s competition in bronze medal spot ahead of Cavallaro when the two days of results are taken into account.
Laumann realised a dream when winning the FEI European Vaulting Championship Female Individual title at Magna Racino in Austria last year and won’t be easily pinned back this week. Her horse is Ghost Alfarvad Z and her lunger is Lasse Kristensen.
The top 15 Male and Female Individuals go through to tomorrow’s (Thursday) Technical test which begins at 14.00, and there is great anticipation ahead of the popular Pas-de-Deux which will take place later in the evening. The top 12 teams go forward to Friday’s final.
Reporting: Louise Parkes
Squad Freestyle: 1, Germany 8.390; 2, Switzerland 8.357; 3, Austria 7.907; 4, France 7.804; 5, Sweden 7.527; 6, Italy 7.116; 7, New Zealand 6.923; 8, South Africa 6.901; 9, USA 6.850; 10, Canada 6,783.
Female Individual Freestyle: 1, Joanne Eccles GBR 8.619; 2, Rikke Laumann DEN 8.544; 3, Simone Jaiser SUI 8.439; 4, Anna Cavallaro ITA 8.435; 5, Corinna Knauf GER 8.236; 6, Kristina Boe 8.089; 7, Anne-Sophie Musset 8.049; 8, Mary McCormick USA 7.975; 9, Elizabeth Ioannou USA 7.959; 10, Jasmin Gipperich AUT 7.899.
Male Individual Freestyle: 1, Jacques Ferrari FRA 8.624; 2, Nicolas Andreani FRA 8.520; 3, Erik Oese GER 8.348; 4, Viktor Brusewitz GER 8.311; 5, Thomas Brusewitz GER 8.257; 6, Lukas Heppler SUI 8.022; 7, Lambert Leclezio MRI 7.950; 8. Vincent Haennel FRA 7.943; 9, Adam Lukac SVK 7.852; 10, Lukas Wacha AUT 7.690.