Normandy, FRA, - The Canadian Vaulting Team made history on September 2 at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, FRA. These Games marked the first time in history that Canadian Vaulters have had a full squad compete.
The Canadian Squad was the seventh team to enter the Zenith arena venue in the city of Caen for the Compulsory Test portion of the squad championship, which encompasses three tests over two rounds - the next two of which are freestyle tests. They finished the day in 12th position overall.
The squad consisted of six vaulters who all call Alberta home. Canadian Vaulting Team Head Coach and team member, Todd Griffiths of Olds, AB, was joined by four others from his hometown - Angelique and Jeanine van der Sluijs, Haigen Pavan, and Shianne Hofer. Dallyn Shields, a 12-year-old from Didsbury, AB completed the squad.
Their equine team member was Bankey Moon, an eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding the squad leased from Becca Hewit of Great Britain for the Games. Hewit was also the Canadian Squad Lunger.
Each squad member completed the test in turn, performing the seven compulsory movements, which include the initial mount, the flag, the mill, forward and backward scissors, the stand, and the flank-off.
Individually, the vaulters were judged in a variety of areas, including five core technical factors: jump force, balance, flexibility, strength, and harmony with the horse. The lunger and the horse were also judged, with their marks making up 25% of the total squad score.
The Canadian Squad put in a commendable performance at their inaugural games to earn a total score of 6.138, which slid them into sixth place initially. At the end of the day, after all 17 nations had competed, Canada is holding 12th place heading into the freestyle phase on September 3. The top 15 squads will move from there to a second freestyle on September 5, which will determine the team medals.
"I was really pleased overall, both with my individual performance and with the team in general," said Griffiths, who is attending his third FEI World Equestrian Games, having ridden for the United States team twice before obtaining his Canadian citizenship in 2014. "It was really exciting to see everyone work so hard all season and then do their best at the Games."
Shields was also excited about the performance at her inaugural games. "I thought our compulsories were one of the best sets that we've ever done, and I was really happy with how it turned out. It was really exciting." As the official Flyer for the team, Shields will top the three-vaulter pyramid during the freestyle test.
Chef d'Equipe, Rebecca Marland was proud that her team was the first-ever squad to compete for Canada at the Games. "We've been slowly building up vaulters who are at this level, and we've got them now. They've done a fantastic job today. I have to say, I have not seen them perform so well as this throughout the entire season."
Canada also had two vaulters take to the ring later in the afternoon for the FEI World Female Individual Vaulting Championship.
Alisa Schmidt of Chilliwack, BC, was the second vaulter into the ring, performing the same compulsory movements as the Squad test with the help of Lunger, Tanja Evers of Germany. Schmit's horse was Laser 19, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding that she leased from Evers for the Games. At the end of the day, she was sitting in 31st position on a score of 6.318 heading into the individual freestyle, which will follow the squad freestyle on September 3.
"I feel pretty confident about my performance. I think it went fairly smoothly. I had a couple wobbles in there - I lost my balance a couple times, but overall I'm happy with it. The horse was great, and the energy in the arena was exciting," said Schmidt, who also competed as an Individual at the past two FEI World Equestrian Games.
In addition to competing as part of the Canadian Squad, Jeanine van der Sluijs returned to ring as an individual, this time with ILPH Islay, a 19-year-old gelding owned by the ILPH and lunged by Liz Mackay of Great Britain.
She earned an overall score of 6.973 and is currently tied for 26th.
"I'm feeling really great about my performance today. I just went in knowing what I had to do, knowing that I'd put all the training into it," said Jeanine, who was riding as an individual at the Games for the second time, having competing in Kentucky, USA in 2010. "I had a little mistake on the final dismount, but the rest of it definitely made up for that. I'm super pleased."
Marland echoed Jeanine's comments about hard work, stating, "I am really, really happy and proud of these girls. They've come up from the bottom level and they've worked really hard and reached the top. Honestly, I haven't seen them vault better. I could say that every year, but of course, every year they do get better because they work at it."
Holding the lead heading into day two of the Squad competition is Austria, followed by Germany in second and Switzerland in third. In women's individual competition, Rikke Laumann of Denmark is in the top spot, with Great Britain's Joanne Eccles holding second. In third place is Simone Jaiser of Switzerland.
To find full results and all the latest news from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014, go to www.normandy2014.com.
In-depth information on the Canadian Equestrian Team is available at www.equinecanada.ca/cet.
Live broadcasts of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 can be streamed through the FEI TV website.
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, in the middle of the Olympic cycle. The inaugural Games were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then, the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006, and Kentucky (USA) in 2010. The next FEI World Equestrian Games will be proudly hosted by Canada in beautiful Bromont, QC. More information on the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Bromont is available here.