Over 130 athletes, 40 lungers and 54 horses from 15 nations have competed in the FEI Open European Junior Vaulting Championships 2012 (1-5 August) in the Areál Zdravia Rozálka equestrian centre in Pezinok, Slovakia.
The Championships saw vaulters aged between 7 and 18 compete over five demanding days to claim the Team and Individual titles, as well as the top spot for the Pas-de-Deux, which was introduced for the first time this year.
Germany’s RSV Neuss-Grimlinghausen squad were the favourites heading into this year’s FEI Open European Junior Vaulting Championships.
With several successes already this year, the squad also benefits from the experience and drive of its two coaches Antje Hill (GER) and Simone Lang-Wiegele (GER). The pair were members of the winning German squad at the FEI Open European Vaulting Championships 2011 in Le Mans (FRA) and retired afterwards to focus on coaching under-18s at their club.
However, they had to work extremely hard to beat Austria’s Club 43 quad, which managed to hold its lead following the compulsory test. “It was a fantastic feeling, and we would never have expected that,” said Karen Asmera, Austrian coach and lunger of the 20-year-old Dionysos.
In the second round, Germany asserted its claim on the title by performing difficult choreography almost flawlessly on the back of 14-year-old Remake, lunged by Simone Lang-Wiegele. All six judges gave outstanding marks, culminating in a total point score of 8.904.
Germany then went on to earn 8.915 points for it second freestyle performance to claim gold. “All the hard work in winter finally paid off,” said Simone Lang-Wiegele. Anje Hill added: “I was sure that we could make it. I trusted all of my vaulters. We practiced it a thousand times at home.”
Austria secured silver with 7.943 points and Switzerland on Pady de Jean Bel with lunger Rita Blieske secured bronze with 7.733 points.
The individual competitions were extremely hard-fought, and saw the favourites Thomas Brüsewitz (GER), the 2010 and 2011 junior champion, and Daniela Fritz (AUS), who had led the Championships from the beginning, both secure silver after being overtaken in the final Freestyle competition.
Austria’s 16-year-old Ramin Simon Rahimi from Vienna, bronze medallist at last year’s Championships, was amazed to see his result on the screen after scoring 7.995 points on Royal Salut with lunger Manuela Barosch. “I never expected to beat Thomas,” he said in awe. “This was the freestyle of my life.”
Brüsewitz received 7.897 points on Airbus lunged by Irina Lenkeit to secure silver with Great Britain’s Andrew McLachlan on Tylers Kernal lunged by John Eccles taking bronze with 7.692 points. Adam Lukác narrowly missed out on a medal for host nation Slovakia with his 7.470 score on Fantaghira with lunger Boris Kodak.
The female Freestyle competition did not end well for Austria’s Daniela Fritz, who had been leading the FEI Open European Junior Vaulting Championships after three outstanding rounds.
Her 10-year-old gelding Caramel could not be calmed after being disturbed by a noise, so Daniela could not perform her routine properly. After scoring 8.453 points in the first Freestyle round, but only 6.894 in the second, she lost her lead and ended on 7.771 points to claim silver.
Manfred Rebel, Austria’s Chef d’Equipe, was consoled when team mate Anais Kristofics-Binder scored 7.786 points on Alonso with lunger Fritz Schandl to win gold.
Germany’s Sophie Hofmann on Riverdance with lunger Heide Pozepnia secured bronze with her 7.593 score.
Making History with Pas-de-Deux
The 16-year-old British vaulter Andrew McLachlan had good reason to be happy for a second time in Pezinok. Andrew with his 15-year-old team mate Rebecca Norval made history as the first FEI European Junior Vaulting Pas-de-Deux Champions with two nearly perfect rounds finishing with a point score of 8.009 on Tylers Kernal.
“After we didn’t qualify for the Team competition, we decided to go for the Pas-de-Deux, and we won - that is amazing!” said lunger and coach John Eccles.
Germany’s Justin van Gerven and Gera Marie Grün secured silver with 7.799 points on Weltoni RS von der Wintermühle with lunger Alexandra Knauf, and bronze went to Austria’s Vanessa Hutter and Katharina Wegscheider on Kalinka 13 with Sabine Frauenschuh.
Results: Full results for the FEI Open European Junior Vaulting Championships 2012 can be viewed here.
Photo caption: Great Britain’s Andrew McLachlan and Rebecca Norval become the first FEI Open European Junior Vaulting Pas-de-Deux Champions. Image: Daniel Kaiser/FEI.