The first day of the 2023 FEI World Championships for Juniors provided non-stop quality for Vaulting fans and judges alike, with overnight leads held by the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany. Meanwhile, Germany and France rise above in the Senior European Individual classes.
Defending World Champion Sam dos Santos (NED) stormed into the lead in the Junior male class with an exceptional round of compulsories aboard Chameur, lunged by Rian Pierik (8.027). His closest competitor, German Ben Lechtenberg, sits just within reach and spends the night in second place with a score of 7.671, marginally ahead of Frenchman Baptiste Terrier who had a minor loss of balance in his stand costing him vital points (7.502). Arne Heers suffered an excess of energy in his vault on, overbalancing onto the horse’s neck and leading to a score of zero for the exercise. He completed his test with incredible composure and lies in ninth place (6.905) with a medal not yet completely out of the question.
The scores do the talking when reflecting on the Junior female competition with 0.166 between first and tenth place. Switzerland’s Leonie Linsbichler has claimed the top spot for the moment earning 7.589 from the judges, closely followed by the young Danish talent Josephine Vedel Sondergaard Nielsen, who surprised many with her exceptional dynamic exercises propelling her into second place at her first Championship (7.577). In third at present sits Austrian Clara Ludwiczek, 7.551, that all important hundredth of a point keeping her ahead of Swiss Noemie Licci. Excitingly, it will likely be all change when we come to the Freestyle test.
In the Squad competition Germany brought their ‘A’ game aboard Capitain Claus (7.246), but Switzerland, competing on Lagrima, was not going to be left behind (7.163). Both squad horses proved their worth at the top of the table and each earned over an eight from one of the judges. A strong start from the Italian squad scored them 6.532 completing the top three. The Austrian squad had major balance problems executing the compulsory stand leading to a disappointing test, which proved an expensive error in such high-level competition and has them trailing in fourth on 6.323.
The FEI European Championship for Seniors opened in the afternoon with the Male compulsory test and continued to raise the bar on the level of competition. Germany put forward a solid start with Viktor Brüsewitz laying down 8.129 as the score to beat. Both his teammates, Jannik Heiland and Thomas Brüsewitz, rose to the challenge scoring 8.471 and 8.441, respectively; however, an almost flawless round from Quentin Jabet (FRA) gave him the lead with 8.754. Compatriot Theo Gardies settled for fourth place (8.167) after a collapse in his mount led to deductions from his score.
Despite many female athletes showing top quality compulsories, none could top the German trio, who as if by prior agreement all scored 8.3. Alina Ross sits top of the table (8.339), followed by Kathrin Meyer (8.322) and Julia Sophie Wagner (8.304). Switzerland’s Nadja Büttiker performed very well-executed compulsories and lies easily within catching distance on 8.246, closely followed by Austrian Eva Nagiller (8.193) and Illona Hannich (SUI) (8.040). Without a doubt, none of the vaulters can afford any error in the next two tests.
It was a day full of class performances and first-rate horses. Debatably, we are not much closer to knowing who any of the champions will be, which is incredibly thrilling for fans and hopeful for the competitors.
by Joanne Littlejohn