Hong Kong (CHN), 14 January 2012 - Brazil's Sarah Vasconcellos clinched her second gold medal of the Championships when taking the Individual title on the final day of the FEI Children's International Classics Final in Hong Kong today. Silver went to the host nation's Arianna Ladd, while South Africa's Cameron Dawson was the well-deserved recipient of the bronze. Vasconcellos also helped the Happy Diamonds side to gold in the Team competition, ably supported by Russia's Nikita Pomogalova, Venezuela's Victoria Karm and Hong Kong's Michelle Li.
The youthful enthusiasm and sporting spirit of the competitors, all aged between 12 and 14 years, permeated the event which took place at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Beas River Country Club - venue for the eventing discipline during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. The 20 competitors representing 15 National Federations - Brazil, Hong Kong, South Africa, France, Germany, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, China, Syria, New Zealand, Guatemala, Russia, Mexico and Canada - rode horses belonging to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, many of which are leased to individuals who generously permitted their mounts to take part in this important challenge.
Competitions for children riding horses initially emerged from discussions that took place during the FEI General Assembly in London in 1986, and the first international event was held in Cali, Colombia in 1988. Between 1993 and 1997, Alfonso Romo and his company (Pulsar) organised the Intercontinental Youth Championships at the Club Hipico La Silla in Mexico, including classes for Children, Juniors and Young Riders. The Children's International Jumping Championship was introduced by the Children's Committee in 1995 and has moved around the globe in subsequent years. It was last held in Abu Dhabi (UAE) in 2009 when Syria's Mohammed Jabri came out on top in the battle for the Individual title.
Initially divided into two sections - Category A for experienced riders and Category B for children with less experience - the concept was further developed with the introduction of a third category in 2011. Riders now compete at Gold, Silver and Bronze level, and the FEI Children's International Classics Final staged over the last five days in Hong Kong was open to Gold Tour competitors only.
Course designer was Iran's Hossein Shafiee, and the action got underway with a warm-up class on Wednesday during which riders got the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their mounts. Thursday's first competition was won by South Africa's Cameron Dawson riding Golden Goblet who recorded the quickest time around the track to pip Syria's Fares Al Khouli and Call Me Handsome by a margin of almost two seconds. Vasconcellos showed early promise when slotting Cornwall Chief into third ahead of South Africa's Taryn Rault and Gagnant in fourth. Impressively, 12 of the 20 starters jumped clear in their opening effort.
The second competition on Friday decided the team medals, and it was a close-fought affair with the top three teams all finishing on a four-fault total, but Pomogalova (Noble Boss), Karam (Magical Lot), Li (Phoenix Fortune) and Casconcellos (Cornwall Chief) clinched gold with fastest combined time. The Happy Sport foursome of Camille Conde-Ferreira (Spare a Dime) from France, Joao Victor Lima (Fame and Fortune) from Brazil, South Africa's Cameron Dawson (Golden Goblet) and Hong Kong's Arianna Ladd (Mountain Treasure) finished just over two seconds in arrears to clinch silver while Team Chopardissimo's Lily Tootill (Wafer King) from New Zealand, Ashley Keary (Hot Pot) from Canada, South Africa's Taryn Rault (Gagnant) and Ecuador's Simon Fernandez-Salvador Fallet (Tennessee) were almost 18 seconds further adrift when taking the bronze.
Individually, Dawson came out on top once again, and the South Africans were dominant when Taryn Rault and Gagnant slotted into second ahead of Kiwi rider Tootill who steered Wafer King into third. Vasconcellos was stalking the leaders yet again however when claiming fourth, and it was her turn to shine on the final day.
With the fences raised to 1.10m the pressure was increased, and when Vasconcellos produced one of just two first-round clears this morning - the other delighting the home-side supporters when coming from Hong Kong's Arianna Ladd - then these two went into a 10-way jump-off to decide the fate of the Individual gold medal. It seemed South Africa might well be in line for the main honours, but although Rault had the quickest time when breaking the beam in 47.60 seconds he left two on the floor while Dawson's Golden Goblet picked up four faults in the fast time of 47.89 seconds.
Ladd thrilled the Hong Kong supporters club when bringing Mountain Treasure home clear once again, but her time of 53.11 seconds was cautious and when Vasconcellos galloped through the finish in 48.47 seconds she sealed the result.
The Brazilian rider is about to start her Secondary School education in the USA and has four horses in her string. Vasconcellos earned her place at the final when winning her home qualfier with a seven-year-old mare she bought from Holland last July. "I prepared for the Children's Final by riding my four horses which are all very different - that was good experience for me" Vasconcellos explained today. She admitted that she was "not completely at home" with her allocated ride, Cornwall Chief, on the first day, "but it got better and better and I was told my riding style was similar to the horse's own rider so people were confident we would get along and do well" she explained.
"I was nervous going into the jump-off today, but after the first jump I knew my horse was in good form and that I had a chance!" she pointed out. By sheer coincidence she met Cornwall Chief's owner while on a trip to Germany last summer, and everyone concerned was delighted with the end result. Very much in keeping with the spirit of these Championships, Vasconcellos said her trip to Hong Kong was a great all-round experience. "It's been awesome making so many new friends and connections - I've already teamed up with the South Africans and we have become great friends!" she said.
New Zealand's Lily Tootill took the prize for Most Stylish rider, while Ecuador's Simon Fernandez-Salvador Fallet took the Sportsmanship Award which was also presented by sponsors, Chopard. FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, said, "The Hong Kong Equestrian Federation did an amazing job in organising this event, and I would like to say a special thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for providing us with a great venue, and tremendous sport".
Individual: GOLD – Cornwall Chief (Sarah Vasconcellos) BRA; SILVER - Mountain Treasure (Arianna Ladd) HKG; BRONZE - Golden Goblet (Cameron Dawson) RSA.
Team: GOLD - Team Happy Diamonds - Noble Boss (Nikita Pomogalova) RUS, Magical Lot (Victoria Karam) VEN, Phoenix Fortune (Michele Li) HKG, Cornwall Chief (Sarah Vasconcellos) BRA; SILVER - Team Happy Sport - Spare a Dime (Camille Conde-Ferreira) FRA, Fame and Fortune (Joao Victor Lima) BRA, Golden Goblet (Cameron Dawson) RSA, Mountain Treasure (Arianna Ladd) HKG; BRONZE - Team Chopardissimo - Wafer King (Lily Tootill) NZL, Hot Pot (Ashley Keary) CAN, Gagnant (Taryn Rault) RSA, Tennessee (Simon Fernandez-Salvador Fallet) ECU.
Photo Caption: Brazil's Sarah Vasconcellos claimed Team and Individual gold riding Cornwall Chief at the FEI Children's International Classics Final 2011 in Hong Kong. Photo: FEI/Kenneth Chan.