Joanne Eccles won gold in the female individual division in the Vaulting Championships at the World Equestrian Games. © FEI/Kit Houghton.
Joanne Eccles interview
"I think I'm a little bit stunned," said Eccles, the 2009 European champion. "I was really pleased with my performance today, but the other girls are so strong, and they all went so well. I think it's going to take a while for it to sink in."
Eccles' composite score over four days of competition was 8.413.
Eccles, 21, has her father, John, as her longeur, and her sister, Hannah, as a coach. Their mother, Jane, also supports the family effort. Eccles vaulted on W.H. Bentley, a 16-year-old French warmblood-Dale pony cross, whom the Eccles family has owned for the past 11 years.
"He was absolutely perfect," Eccles said of her horse. "I don't have to think about him when he's out there. He's got such a partnership with my dad that they're a team in themselves, and I just do my thing on top."
Eccles, who is studying dentistry at Glasgow University in Scotland, described the work that goes into perfecting her programme. "You have to practice a lot before taking the routine to the horse - get the position right and make sure it's safe and good for your horse. We practice on a barrel, and also do floor exercises," she said.
Both the silver and bronze medals will be going home to Germany in the female division.
Antje Hill, vaulting on Airbus, took silver with a composite score of 8.322, while Simone Wiegele, with Arkansas, earned bronze with an 8.281. When the German contingent realized it would hold two spots on the medal podium, a cacophony of cheers and tears erupted. Hill said she and Wiegele had been rooting for one another all along.
"We were very supportive of each other, and that made us stronger as a team," she said.
The United States' Mary McCormick turned in the women's highest score of the day, with an 8.680 in this freestyle competition. Her composite score (8.270) left her in fourth place.
"I came to this competition saying that all I wanted to do was my best, and I feel like I did that, and I'm not disappointed," McCormick said. She said she now plans to go home and unwind by trail riding with her vaulting partner, Sir Anthony Van Dyck.
In the male division, it came down to the last vaulter, Looser, who in his last freestyle performance had the chance to take the lead away from Vorberg, his friend and teacher and a two-time vaulting world champion (2004 and 2006) and two-time European champion (2005 and 2007).
For both men, it was a difficult situation, and in the end, Looser said he decided to concentrate on making a clean performance and let the judges decide who was better.
Immediately after the men's performances, Vorberg said, "He definitely deserves it. For him, it is a great achievement. He has done so much for the Swiss vaulting sport."
Looser's composite score after four days of competition was an 8.498, while Vorberg's was 8.463, working aboard Sir Bernhard RS von der Wintermuhle.
After a bit of reflection, Vorberg said that perhaps his freestyle music choice, "Wind of Change" by the Scorpions, had proven prophetic.
"The wind of change is coming," Vorberg said. "I'm an old man now [at 28]. You can't go on that long. It won't stay like this forever, so I'm happy that I had this last peak here."
Looser, 26, vaulted aboard a horse from Vorberg's stable, Record RS von der Wintermuhle, an 18-year-old Hessian stallion. An 18-time Swiss champion, Looser called his final freestyle performance at the World Equestrian Games "one of my best competitions, ever."
The bronze medal went to Nicholas Andreani of France, who turned in the day's high score of 8.905 in the freestyle. His composite score was 8.452.
Andreani's performances have carried a military theme, and in his final freestyle, he portrayed a soldier coming home after the war. And, for him, WEG was about performing.
"In our sport, in our discipline, it's too bad that it's about being graded, because for me, it's what I have in my heart and in my soul," Andreani said. He vaulted on Idefix de Braize.
Another medal round will be held on Sunday, after the teams' final freestyle.
Today's total attendance was 44,954. The total attendance for the first 15 days of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games is 468,340.
Male Individual Final - 1, Patric Looser (SUI) 8,498; 2, Kai Vorberg (GER) 8,463; 3, Nicolas Andreani (FRA) 8,452.