It was an historic day for Vaulting at the FEI World Championships for Young Vaulters and Juniors. The first ever World Champions were crowned in the Young Vaulter division, Canada was presented their first Vaulting medal, and nine nations medalled over the five classes.
The final of the Male Young Vaulter class kept everyone on tenterhooks right to the end, with errors beginning to creep in as the grandeur of the event affected the performers. Philip Goroncy entered the circle for Germany performing the first clean Free test of the day and was rewarded with a bronze medal (7.835). He was followed by teammate Bela Lehnen, whose smooth style fitted the music choice, perfectly leading to a high score from the judges and making him a tough act to follow.
Philip Clement began his Free test apprehensively, and his nerves showed slightly with a small slip at the start, but he grew with confidence as his freestyle progressed, and displayed incredible skill and harmony. He proved his worth with his new title of World Champion (8.257), while Bela Lehnen took the silver medal (7.974).
In the Female final, the top vaulters were full of confidence. Anna Weidenauer performed a beautiful freestyle, winning the bronze medal for Austria (8.146). Averill Saunders captivated the audience and put on a thrilling display in her Free test, taking home the silver medal, a first for Canada (8.417). Gold was for Alice Layher from Germany, who showed her class throughout the competition and proved too strong for the rest. She has now added the World Champion title to the European one which she won in 2022 along with Andrea Blatz and Lambik Van Strokappeleken (8.606).
There was a big change in the Junior female leaderboard. Clara Ludwiczek, originally in fifth place, produced a massive freestyle, earning a top score to bring the World title home to Austria for the third time (8.244). Josephine Vedel Sondergaard Nielson held her place firm and won the silver medal for Denmark (8.239), with Giorgia Varisco finishing in third place for Italy (8.044). France’s Oceane Gehan had a devastating round. Coming into the final in gold medal position, her horse began the test very unsettled and she had to show great horsemanship to settle him while losing as few points as possible. She still pulled off an incredibly difficult Free test, but it wasn’t enough, and she completed the competition in fourth place (7.918).
Dutch Sam dos Santos became a double World Champion, winning the gold medal in the Junior Male class once again (8.424). The incredibly talented 14-year-old Lukas Heitmann took home silver for Germany, and in an unbelievably close finish, Baptiste Terrier won the bronze medal for France, scoring 7.958, fractionally ahead of Ben Lechtenberg (GER) on 7.953 and Louis Dumont (FRA) on 7.922.
The final medals of the day were for the Junior squads. Team Germany was untouchable. Their freestyle was full of beautiful shapes and complex sequences, which had them in a class above the rest, and their score of 8.512 led them to a gold medal. The silver medal went to Switzerland (7.802), with the United States of America finishing in third (7.021).
by Joanne Littlejohn