Lexington, KY — The Vaulting World Championships swung into action today at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, with the compulsory portion of both team and individual competition being contested at the Alltech Arena.
At day’s end, the U.S. team held the highest score (7.207), followed by Germany (6.996) and Austria (6.990). Switzerland (6.880) and France (6.594) rounded out the top five. Team freestyle continues on Friday, with the final freestyle round on Sunday.
Vaulting combines gymnastic and dance elements, performed to music on a cantering horse. A longeur, who controls the horse, completes the three-way partnership, and harmony between all participants is imperative. Vaulting has been an FEI-recognized discipline since 1983.
Although there is a lot of competition left before medals are awarded, the Americans are happy with their inaugural performance on home soil.
“We went out there, and we just took charge,” said Devon Maitozo, team member and coach of the Free Artists Creative Equestrians vaulting club, which constitutes Team USA this year. “I feel like we did one of our best sets that we’ve done. Just in watching my team, I saw people reaching their potentials in a lot of places and very few mistakes.”
The U.S. team partnered with Palatine, a 12-year-old Westphalian, who was imported from Germany in 2007 for the express purpose of competing at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. He is trained in dressage by team longeur Carolyn Bland.
In the male individual compulsory test, Germany’s Gero Meyer took the lead with a score of 8.401. German teammate Kai Vorberg followed with an 8.297. The remaining top five are Patric Looser of Switzerland (8.253), Stefan Csandl of Austria (8.077) and Petr Eim of the Czech Republic (7.923).
In individual competition, there remains a freestyle portion of Round 1 before the top 15 vaulters in both male and female divisions move into Round 2, which has a technical and a freestyle program.
Meyer said he was “absolutely satisfied” with his performance. “2010 will be my last [World Equestrian Games]. I really wanted to get here, and I got here, and I’m happy.”
Meyer, who placed second in individual vaulting competition at world championships in 2000, 2002 and 2006, vaulted on Grand Gaudino, a 16-year-old Hanoverian whom Meyer said was “doing his job very well.”
In the female individual compulsory test, Joanne Eccles of Great Britain topped the leader board with a score of 8.157. Following her are Simone Wiegele of Germany (8.037), Megan Benjamin of the United States (7.856), Rikke Laumann of Denmark (7.854) and Stefanie Kowald of Austria (7.836).
Eccles said she has had difficulty recently with the initial vault onto the horse’s back (called the mount). But the 2009 European Champion pulled it out when she needed to.
“It was my best mount I’ve done pretty much all year in competition,” she said. “That’s what actually helped my compulsories, and I think I had a pretty good set. I was really pleased with most of them. There’s not much I’d pick out from them that I was really disappointed in.”
Eccles sister, Hannah, is also competing in individual female vaulting and is currently in 16th place. Their father, John Eccles, is their longeur and trainer, and the Eccles family owns their vaulting horse, W.H. Bentley, a 16-year-old French warmblood-Dale pony cross.
The World Games’ youngest competitor, 9-year-old Robin Krause, competed on the French team, which is currently in fifth place in team standings. And China’s first WEG competitor – in any discipline – is Ling Yang, who turned in a score of 6.533 in the female individual compulsory test.
“I can’t even put words to how awesome that is,” Yang said. “I felt like that was just the icing on the cake for this whole trip.”
Countries competing in team vaulting are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States. Countries with individual vaulters are: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, South Africa, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Slovakia and the United States.
Judges are Suzanne Detol (USA), Jochen Schilffarth (GER), Erich Breiter (AUT), Martine Fournaise (FRA), Monika Eriksson (SWE), and Roland Boehlen (SUI).
About the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Games are held every four years, and this will be the first occurrence in the United States.
The Games will be broadcast on NBC Sports, which marks the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $167 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International Inc., Meydan, Kentucky Ale, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
For more information on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, visit www.alltechfeigames.com.
Founded by Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech is a global animal health and nutrition company with 30 years’ experience in developing natural products that are scientifically proven to enhance animal health and performance. With more than 2,300 employees in 120 countries, the company has developed a strong regional presence in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. For more information, visit www.alltech.com.
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