Caen, France - The vaulting portion of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games got underway Tuesday with the Squad, Individual Female, and Individual Male divisions performing their Compulsory Tests. The U.S. Vaulting Team is off to a solid start in Normandy, earning respectable scores in the world-class fields in front of the judging panel of Sue Detol (USA), Elzbieta Dolinska (POL), Anita Flamand (AUT), Véronique Girard (FRA), Pavla Krauspe (SVK), Anna Kull (SUI), Helma Schwarzmann (GER), and Karolina Wickholm (FIN) at the Zénith in Caen, France.
FEI World Squad Vaulting Championship
The Woodside Vaulters kicked off the competition with a capable Compulsory Test, demonstrating quality scissors and stand movements in their test, and receiving a score of 6.666. For their efforts, Tessa Divita (Emerald Hills, Calif.), Audrey Kiernan (San Mateo, Calif.), Siddartha Kreaden (Sunnyvale, Calif.), Kristen Kuhn (San Mateo, Calif.), Rachel Polati (Emerald Hills, Calif.), and Miki Yang (Los Altos Hills, Calif.) finished the Compulsory Test in seventh place out of 17 squads.
"I thought it was really good," Tessa Divita explained. "There is so much energy in there it is just amazing looking out at all the people that came to watch us."
All of the squad members had fun and were proud of their performance. Instead of getting nervous in the world championship atmosphere, the girls responded to the added pressure to put forth a good Compulsory Test.
"I'm so proud that we did everything that we do at home," Kreaden said. "We practice like we compete and we did that here. Nothing went wrong, everything was awesome."
Austria landed atop the leaderboard for the Squad Compulsory Test on a score of 7.873, followed by Germany in second place with a score of 7.852, and Switzerland in third on a 7.757.
FEI World Female Individual Vaulting Championship
Three-time FEI World Equestrian Games competitor Mary McCormick (Woodside, Calif.) leads the U.S. women in the field of 32 competitors in the FEI World Female Individual Vaulting Championship. With a solid vault on and good mill and stand movements, McCormick put in a competitive Compulsory Test vaulting on Palatine, Sydney Frankel's 1998 Westphalian gelding, and lunged by Carolyn Bland. She finished the first phase of competition in sixth place with a score of 8.080.
"It is so electric and intimate and romantic with the audience [in that arena.] I felt like my horse was really amazing and I'm thankful for that. I feel like I was holding back a little bit and I probably could have gone for some things a little bit more, but overall I'm really pleased with the performance."
Though her mount has been a movement she has struggled with in the past, McCormick felt like she nailed it on Tuesday, perfecting the movement at just the right time to hopefully boost her scores that much more in the championship.
Elizabeth Ioannou (Saratoga, Calif.) worked hard to get to the 2014 Games, and her hard work showed in her Compulsory Test. She performed well with good flag and scissors movements as she vaulted on Jarl, a 1998 Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Lasse Kristensen and Emma Seely, and lunged by Kristensen. She received a score of 7.571 from the judges to put her in 15th place.
"It was a pretty nice, solid round I'd say. It felt really good; my horse felt really good," Ioannou stated. "It was a nice start."
Ioannou was happiest with her second part of the scissors, as she struggled with the movement in the past. Though she felt she had been hitting higher in her flight in warm-up, Ioannou was happy with her performance and hopes to enjoy every moment of her time at the 2014 Games.
Mary Garrett (Mountain View, Calif.) was part of the Gold medal-winning Squad at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but is competing as an Individual, as well as one half of a Pas de Deux pair this time around. Putting in a notable performance, Garrett earned a score of 7.481 to lie in 18th place. Vaulting on Palatine and being lunged by Bland, her performance was highlighted by an excellent stand movement.
"I feel great about my Compulsory Test. It's always a round where I feel like I could do more, but I feel like I really left it out there today and I did my best."
Garrett feels that she is fully backed by all of her U.S. teammates, making her experience at the 2014 Games more meaningful. She also noted a great sense of pride getting to see the other members of the U.S. team competing on center stage in the Zénith.
Rikke Laumann (DEN) had the highest score of the day in the Individual Female division with a score of 8.435. In second place was Joanne Eccles (GBR) on a score of 8.350, while Simone Jäiser is in third with a score of 8.300.
FEI World Male Individual Vaulting Championship
Following the Individual Male First Round Compulsory Test, Gabe Aniello (Austin, Texas) is the highest-placed U.S. male vaulter in 13th place in a competitive field of 17 of the world's best male vaulters. Vaulting on Ferdinand 194, a 2000 Hanoverian gelding owned by RVC Gilching e.V. and lunged by Bettina Gross, Aniello had a strong Compulsory Test, beginning with a quality vault on and staying consistent from there. He earned a score of 7.456 for his efforts.
Aniello was pleased with his performance and felt that his horse really enjoyed the atmosphere of the arena. He has dreamed of being in an FEI World Equestrian Games and has made his dream a reality in 2014.
"Since I saw [vaulting at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games] I have always wanted to be here, so it is just awesome, awesome being here," Aniello said.
Kristian Roberts (Moss Beach, Calif.) had a strong Compulsory Test with an excellent mill and good scissors movements while vaulting on Diva 506, RVC Gilching e.V.'s 2003 Oldenburg mare, lunged by Bland. He is in 16th place on a score of 7.173.
"Being my second World Equestrian Games, going into it I just felt a little more confident about it and my horse really couldn't have gone any better," Roberts said of his test and his mount, who he only has been working with for about a month.
The importance of the occasion isn't lost on Roberts. He stated, "It's a huge honor, one that not many people get to experience, and for that I am extremely grateful."
Patrick Stevens (Martinez, Calif.) rounded out the U.S. effort in the FEI World Male Individual Vaulting Championship. In his first appearance at an FEI World Equestrian Games, Stevens had a capable Compulsory Test with nice scissors and stand movements. Vaulting on Stanford lunged by Julie Divita, he is in 17th place with a score of 6.848.
"There is a lot more adrenaline than I ever remember being in there, but it's just so much fun because it feels like one big spotlight on you and it's fun to vault in front of people," Stevens explained.
Being at his first Games means a great deal to Stevens, and he noted that it took hard work and a great horse and lunger to get him to where he is today.
Jacques Ferrari (FRA) leads the division on a score of 8.410, with Nicolas Andreani (FRA) in second with an 8.300, and Viktor Brüsewitz (GER) in third on a 8.216.
World Championship vaulting competition continues Wednesday with the First Round Freestyle Tests for the Squads at 9:30am local time. The Individual Female division starts at 2:00pm, followed by the Individual Male division at 5:30pm.
To learn more about the FEI World Vaulting Championships at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, visit: http://www.normandy2014.com/2014-games/the-disciplines/6/vaulting.
Follow the U.S. Vaulting Team here.