Vaulting Dazzles on World Stage

By November 24, 2015
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British vaulter Joanne Eccles. ( Photo: Daniel Kaiser/FEI)

Vaulting has grown massively in terms of public and media support and appeal in recent years, and the sport — which combines the thrill of gymnastics with horseback riding — will be showcased internationally over five qualifying rounds this winter, beginning with competitions in Madrid and Paris.

Vaulting demands outstanding physical fitness from the athletes and a harmonious relationship with the horse that carries them through their routine. Mounting and dismounting, shoulder and handstands, kneeling and standing exercises and carrying or lifting another vaulter are just some of the tests. The key to success is a lot of hard work and dedication along with artistic flair and gymnastic ability. And team-work is also crucial, with a lunger ensuring the horse maintains a steady canter on a circle no smaller than 15m.

At its best, vaulting is a joy to watch, with grace, energy, power and discipline combined with a huge sense of drama and entertainment. The buzz of excitement created in the vaulting arena at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, France, was unforgettable, and as the season kicks off, there is more in store.

First, the spotlight shines at Madrid Horse Week, Nov. 24-29. Then the action moves to Paris, where vaulting will be on display at the 44th annual Salon du Cheval.

Three categories

There are three categories of competition in the FEI World Cup Vaulting series: Individual Male, Individual Female and Pas-de-Deux.  Heading in, the Female rankings are topped by Switzerland’s Simone Jaiser, who claimed individual gold at the FEI European Vaulting Championships in Aachen, Germany, this summer. The 29-year-old, who was individual bronze medalist at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, clinched it with a performance that oozed comfort, confidence and class, and she will be the one to beat when the first of the two Freestyle competitions kicks off in Madrid on Thursday.

Also lining out in the Female division will be Austria’s Isabel Fiala and Daniela Fritz, while 30-year-old French vaulter Anne-Sophie Musset, who was a winner at CVIO4* in Saumur, France, in April and was runner-up at the CVI3* in Moorsele, Belgium,  in May, will be putting the pressure on Jaiser. The Swiss athlete, her lunger, Rita Blieske, and her horse, Luk, have enjoyed a fabulous year with wins at Moorsele, in the Swiss city of Bern, and Wiesbaden, Germany, in the lead-up to Aachen however, so is firm favorite at the opening leg.

Strong contenders

The Individual Male competition in Madrid has attracted three strong contenders including Switzerland’s Lukas Heppler who just missed a medal when finishing fourth at the FEI World Cup Vaulting 2015 Final in Graz, Austria, earlier this year and another 22-year-old, Italy’s Francesco Bortoletto who was individually sixth at last year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France.

At 29 years of age, Germany’s Daniel Kaiser has a lot more experience under his belt however, and the vaulter who came out on top at Ermelo, Netherlands, in August and who has a European bronze medal in his trophy cabinet, will be putting the pressure on his younger opponents.

At the same time as the second and deciding competitions take place at the Spanish fixture, the first of the two Freestyle competitions will be getting underway in Paris on Friday evening. And with The Netherlands’ Clair de Ridder and Carole Sneekes, Switzerland’s Pascale Wagner and Nadja Buttiker and Italy’s Anna Cavallaro all vying for the Female honours this is going to be another hard-fought affair.

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Austria’s Lisa Wild, the “backflip queen”, won the Individual Female title at the 2014/2015 FEI World Cup™ Vaulting Final in Graz (AUT) last February. (Daniel Kaiser/FEI)

A real battle

And Paris promises a real battle in the Male division, with Czech Republic’s Lukas Klouda, Hungary’s Balazs Bence and Switzerland’s Andrin Muller taking on the host nation’s Clement Taillez and Vincent Haennel.
French spectators truly love this sport, and especially the emotion of the Pas-de-Deux. America’s Kimberly and Cassidy Palmer have enjoyed a spectacular year, with four CVI victories to their credit, and Germany’s Jolina Ossenberg-Engles and Timo Gerdes, who missed out on a spot at the European Championships this year, will be doing their very best to please the judges knowing that the French brother-and-sister duo of Lucie and Simon Chevrel will have the home crowd right behind them.

The FEI World Cup Vaulting season will continue Dec. 4-5 in Salzburg, Austria, Dec. 26 at Mechelen, Belgium, and in Leipzig, Germany,  Jan. 14-16.

All competitors have had to qualify for entry to the series, so the anticipation is high as the contenders aim for the top. “We look forward to the start of this new World Cup season in a discipline which has now secured its place at the forefront of equestrian sport, and we are very pleased to welcome two new venues, Madrid and Mechelen, to the series this year”, FEI Director for Driving, Reining and Vaulting, Bettina de Rham said.

The full list of qualified vaulters, calendar of events, results and standings for the FEI World Cup Vaulting 2015/2016 are available here .Check out the schedule of for the FEI World Cup Vaulting 2015/2016 season on FEI TV here.

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