Anna Cavallaro (ITA) and Lukas Heppler (SUI) got their FEI World Cup™ Vaulting 2016/2017 series off to the best possible start, storming to victory at the opener in Madrid (ESP).
The World Cup returned to Madrid Horse Week after its début last year to provide an incredible spectacle headed up with a top-class vaulting line-up, including multiple medal winners from past series.
Four horses for eight athletes made the journey to Spain’s capital, which meant that with only Cavallaro vaulting on her usual horse, quick adaptation was needed for the rest who had to perform routines to the highest standard.
Throughout the competition, the favourite Cavallaro proved untouchable, finishing on a final score of 8.423. In her first season with 10-year-old Monaco Franze 4, she showed that together they could be formidable lunged by Nelson Vidoni, who consistently gained horse scores in excess of 8.
Performing to Anastasia’s ‘Once upon a December’ under the lights of Madrid Horse Week, Cavallaro was able to show off her great strength and precision, evident in her effortlessly perfect split jumps.
Her dynamic freestyle showed her continuing growth in confidence with Monaco Franze 4, as she laid down the gauntlet for the female athletes going into the series.
Competing on borrowed horses, and with a short training day before the start of competition, four female athletes battled to the end. Switzerland’s Nadja Büttiker and Marina Mohar, who both borrowed 22-year-old Simbal, finished second (7.708) and third (7.593), with Isabel Fiala (AUT) placing fourth (6.810) after a tumble on day one from Royal Georg Alexander which impacted her final score.
“In Madrid the competition is wonderful, the organisation is fantastic and the arena is beautiful,” said Cavallaro after her win. “I really want to come back and compete at this competition next year.”
The four male athletes, also competing on borrowed horses, all posted exceptionally high scores above 8.
The top spot was closely fought between Switzerland’s Lukas Heppler and Germany’s Jannik Heiland. They both competed on Monaco Franze 4 – now recognised as one of the top scoring horses in the sport and in its first FEI World Cup™ Vaulting series – and were lunged by Nelson Vidoni.
Heppler’s artistic aspect of his performance, with strength moves constantly tight and soft on the horse, is one to watch this series as he develops his own unique style of vaulting. His final 8.535 score secured the Madrid qualifier.
Defending FEI World Cup™ Vaulting champion Daniel Kaiser (GER) once again teamed up with lunger Diane Fraser and Simbal, the combination that won the Madrid qualifier last year. His Houdini routine caught the eye of artistic judge Anita Flamand Prochaska (SUI), who awarded him 8.950 on the first day of competition, but after touching down after his dismounts he placed third with 8.176.
Thomas Brüsewitz (GER) rounded out the class finishing fourth competing on Dante lunged by Nelson Vidoni. Dante was a little unsettled as he entered the arena on the first day, but quickly acclimatised and allowed Brüsewitz to perform two tight routines to finish on 8.050.
Next stop Paris (27-28 November)
FEI World Cup™ Vaulting now heads to Paris (FRA) for the second qualifier, with Lukas Heppler and Isabel Fiala joining eleven vaulters vying for all-important World Cup points in individual and pas-de-deux today (Competition 1) and tomorrow (Competition 2).
Watch Paris live on FEI TV: http://www.feitv.org
By Hannah Eccles