WEG vaulting: Will French flair be to the fore?

France is expected to steal the show when the vaulting competition of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 gets under way in the Zenith Indoor Arena in Caen, France on September 2.

Great Britain's Joanne Eccles, pictured with her father John who is her lunger, won individual female Vaulting gold at the 2010 Games in Kentucky.
Great Britain’s Joanne Eccles, pictured with her father John who is her lunger, won individual female gold at the 2010 Games in Kentucky. © Kit Houghton/FEI

In the above video Nicolas Andreani refers to four judges. This is the format for national competitions, but at the Games 2014 there will be eight.

When the host nation’s male vaulting super-stars, World and FEI World Cup Champion Nicolas Andreani, and European champion Jacques Ferarri, performed in Bordeaux earlier this year, the home crowd went wild. And with Andreani by his own admission nearing the end of his career, the Zenith Stadium may provide the ideal venue for his final curtain-call.

A week of firsts and record entries

There is a great deal of excitement about the many “firsts” attached to the Vaulting discipline at the 2014 Games.

The Pas-de-Deux, so successfully introduced into the 2013/2014 season’s FEI World Cup Vaulting series, will make its Games debut; New Zealand sends a squad for the very first time; Lambert Leclezio (MRI), who received support from FEI Solidarity, is representing his country, Mauritius, for the first time at World Championship level; and South Africa’s Bongani Mvumvu, competing in his second Games, also benefited from an FEI Solidarity Scholarship.

The discipline of Vaulting, which involves gymnastic exercises on horseback and which is a huge hit with the public, has, like so many of the other FEI sports, attracted a significantly increased entry for this edition of the Games.

A total of 179 athletes from 22 countries will line up compared to the previous record number of 149 athletes from 17 countries set at the last Games in Kentucky four years ago. There will be 17 nations represented by squads of six vaulters, 35 Female Individuals and 18 Male Individuals along with 12 partnerships competing in the popular new Pas-de Deux.

There will be four separate sets of medals, for the Squad (Team) competition, Female Individual, Male Individual and Pas-de-Deux. The lunger who keeps the horse cantering in a rhythmical stride that supports the artistic efforts of the athletes as they perform their floor-plans is a key player in this demanding sport and also receives a medal along with the vaulters.

World Champion Nicolas Andreani wowed the judges with his impressive Einstein performance on Le Grand Chevalier, lunged by Eva Maria Kreiner.
World Champion Nicolas Andreani on Le Grand Chevalier, lunged by Eva Maria Kreiner. © Daniel Kaiser/FEI

The programme

It’s going to be a busy week, starting with the Compulsory Tests on Tuesday September 2, Freestyle tests on Wednesday 3rd, Technical Tests and the first Freestyle Pas-de-Deux on Thursday 4th and the drama-filled Finals for all four events taking place on Friday, September 5.

British vaulter Joanne Eccles will be bidding for her second consecutive gold medal in the Female Individual Championship, but can expect a strong challenge from Italy’s Anna Cavallaro who successfully defended her FEI World Cup Vaulting title this year.

Eccles will also join her sister, Hannah, in the Pas-de-Deux challenge, where the Austrian duo of Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha may prove hard to beat. The history-making Austrians are a polished pair, having previously clinched the 2012 FEI World Vaulting Championship title in Le Mans (FRA) before storming to victory at the FEI European Vaulting Championships 2013 in Ebreichsdorf (AUT). Performing to Heart’s a Mess by Gotye with lunger Klaus Haidacher at Bordeaux this year, 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 if they can match that performance next week then they may well be untouchable.

Germany’s Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs, bronze medalists at last year’s FEI European Vaulting Championships, finished second while Stefanie Millinger and Evelyn Freund from Salzburg (AUT) completed the top three at the Bordeaux fixture, and all will be back in action and hoping to the turn the tables when the exciting Pas-de-Deux gets under way in Caen.

Andreani, with his horse Quiece d’Aunis and lunger Marina Dupon Joosten scored a massive 8,826 to win the FEI World Cup Male Vaulting Final at Bordeaux where his French colleague, Ferrari finished second ahead of Switzerland’s Lukas Heppler.

Andreani is something of a “rock star” in the sport, and should he prove successful in his bid for Male Individual gold then the roof of the Zenith Stadium may well go into orbit as the crowd will definitely not be holding back on their emotions for both their sport and their home hero.

The scoop

  • 179 athletes from 22 countries – previous record was 149 athletes from 17 countries.
  • 17 nations represented by squads of 6 vaulters.
  • 4 competitions – Squad, Female Individual, Male Individual and Pas de Deux.
  • 4 sets of medals, and the lunger also receives a medal along with the vaulters.
  • 12 top teams qualify for the Freestyle Final.
  • 35 Female Individuals; 18 Male Individuals.
  • Both male and female competitions begin with a Compulsory class which is followed on the next day by a Freestyle.
  • 15 top vaulters then go into round two which consists of a Technical test which is followed on the next day by a Freestyle Final.
  • 12 Pas-de-Deux partnerships.
  • Officials
  • Team USA will defend the Team title, having clinched gold on home ground in Kentucky in 2010 where Germany took silver and Austria clinched the bronze.
  • The Male Individual medals in 2010 went to Switzerland’s Patric Looser (gold), Germany’s Kai Voberg (silver) and Nicolas Andreani from France (bronze).

Definite entries

Louise Parkes

Louise Parkes is an equestrian journalist based in Ireland. She has covered international equestrian sport for the last 16 years on behalf of the FEI and is a familiar face at all major events. » Read Louise's profile

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