German squad vaults to lead at European Champs

German team member Johannes Kay.
German team member Johannes Kay. © Aachen 2015/ Thomas Rubel

Germany has lived up to its billing as favourite in the FEI European Vaulting Championships in Aachen, taking the lead in the squad compulsory test.

The team from the RSV Neuss-Grimlinghausen vaulting club under trainer Jessica Lichtenberg has a score of 7701 after the first of three competitions. They are closely followed by the Swiss team in second place with 7696.

The squad competition comprises of three phases: The compulsory test, and two freestyle rounds. The scores of all three competitions are added to together and the average score is determined to decide which teams ultimately claim the medals.

“I am totally happy. It is always a bit different competing in the Aachen stadium, we were all rather nervous,” Lichtenberg said. “It was very strenuous in the arena. It wasn’t an easy task. It was hard work. But we fought hard – the team, the horse and myself.”

The squad has already won gold five times at World and European Championships and were the German Champions nine times in succession. Lichtenberg has come full circle in Aachen: In 2006, she took part in her first championships there as a trainer during the FEI World Equestrian Games.

Vaulters perform their freestyle on Friday night starting from 5pm. “We want to get the hall rocking in the freestyle competition and really perform a spectacular freestyle,” Lichtenberg said.

In the individual classification the ladies and men have to qualify in the first competition to go through to the second round. The first round is a compulsory test, which took place on Thursday, and a freestyle, which is on Friday’s schedule. In the second round, comprising of a technical test and a freestyle, the top 15 vaulters among the men and ladies respectively, battle it out for the medals. In the end, the scores from all four competitions are added together to decide the European Championships rankings.

After the compulsory test, in the Ladies competition, the 22-year-old vaulter from Cologne, Corinna Knauf, is currently heading the field. She was awarded a score of 8333 with Fabiola, with whom she already competed at the European Championships in 2013 and at the World Equestrian Games in 2014. The two-time German Champion is lunged by her sister, Alexandra Knauf. She is followed by Swiss vaulter Simone Jäiser in second place on 8221. The 28-year-old is trained and lunged by her mother Rita Blieske and is competing in Aachen with her horse Luk. Jäiser claimed the bronze medal at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy last year, which is her best result to date. Third place in the compulsory test went to Katharina Luschin of Austria.

In total, 24 vaulters are taking part in the ladies competition at the FEI European Championships Aachen 2015.

For the male vaulters in Germany, Thursday was most successful. After the compulsory test, the first of the four competitions, they are occupying all three top rankings. The Brüsewitz brother,s Viktor and Thomas from Garbsen, lie in first and second place with 8496 and 8363 respectively, followed by Jannis Drewell in third place on a score of 8270.

The elder Brüsewitz brother, 25-year-old Viktor, was a member of the Ingelsberg team that won silver in 2010 at the World Championships in Kentucky. Thomas, 21, was successful at the World Equestrian Games in Caen last year, where he came fourth. Drewell, 24, is making his championships debut in Aachen.

There are 17 vaulters competing in the men’s individual classification. As with the Ladies competition, only the best 15 from round one comprising of the compulsory test and freestyle go through to the second round, which is the decider for the European Championships medals.

Germany's vaulting squad after a successful first outing.
Germany’s vaulting squad after a successful first outing. © Aachen 2015/ Thomas Rubel

Britain pleased with fourth spot

Britain’s entire six-strong vaulting squad make their senior championship debut, with the team of Andrew McLachlan, Hannah Young, Rebecca Norval, Harry Cox, Lisa Mercer and Kerri Brylka putting in a super first round to score 6.348 on board John & Jane Eccles’ Tylers Kernal, lunged by John Eccles.

British Chef d’Equipe Ann Rogerson said: “Very happy, they are quite a young team, this is their first year in seniors, it’s their first year on this stage and I think they did a really good job. It’s a big arena it’s a big difference even from the Championships that they have done already.”

Warwickshire’s Lucy Phillips was the first Individual Female Vaulter to enter the Deutsche Bank Stadium for the female compulsory round, along with her mum Liz who lunges her horse Pitucelli (owned by William & Elizabeth Phillips and Lucy). A strong test from the experienced senior vaulter saw a score of 7.201 appear on the big screen to the delight of the crowd.

A double of Hannah’s (both hailing from Scotland) were next to display their moves, as Hannah Eccles and Hannah Young undertook their compulsory test on John and Jane Eccles’ WH Bentley.

First up and lunged by dad John, Hannah Eccles produced a very good test to score 7.351. She commented afterwards; “The hardest one is always the compulsory so to have that over and done and it to not go too bad, I’m really happy with that. We’re here for a really good time, for me we were so focused on WEG last year and I’m not doing pairs anymore so it’s great to be here and compete in this arena.”

Following Eccles, Hannah Young was in to make her senior individual debut, and with a score of 6.798 the up and coming vaulter was very pleased: “The compulsory is always one of the more challenging rounds but I think that went pretty much as well as it could have went, I was happy with it over all,” she said, “This is my first year in seniors so I’m just going out here to have fun and do the best I can possibly do; the aim for me was to get selected this year, and that’s happened so I’m just going to go and see what I can do!”

After his earlier appearance in the squad event Scotland’s Andrew McLachlan was once again competing on Tylers Kernal, in the Individual Male Compulsories. This time lunged by Amanda McLachlan, Andrew put in a great start to his campaign by taking a score of 7.347.

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