U.S. Vaulters Bring Home the 2006 WEG Medals

Megan Benjamin wins the individual gold in vaulting at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, and is also on the silver medal winning U.S. team.
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Megan Benjamin wins the individual gold in vaulting at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, and is also on the silver medal winning U.S. team.
Vaulting individual gold medalist Megan Benjamin with Devon Maitozo and Rosie Ross of the U.S. silver medal team | © Nancy Jaffer 2006

Vaulting individual gold medalist Megan Benjamin with Devon Maitozo and Rosie Ross of the U.S. silver medal team | © Nancy Jaffer 2006

August 27,2006 -- Today was the grand finale of the vaulting at the World Equestrian Games (WEG), which is really show biz, complete with costumes and choreography.

I felt quite entertained, but you get the feeling of being at a sporting event, rather than the ballet, because of the screaming, the stomping and the face painting. The Dutch favor orange plastic crowns and orange stripes, the Germans were wearing red, yellow and black jester's caps, with colors to match on their cheeks, and the cheering section from the USA was resplendent in red, white and blue.

They certainly had something to cheer about. Megan Benjamin won the women's individual gold, with a final score of 8,421 points, beating Katharina Faltin of Austria, who had 8,311. Megan broke the decades-old German lock on the title as she made history in the sport for America.

"I have never done as well as this year," said Megan, who felt her placing was a big surprise, given that the first time she was on the podium was at a meet in Munich this summer.

Megan also competed for the team, which won the silver medal (8,161 points), ahead of Austria (8,152) and behind Germany (8,189). They got to play the ever-popular German anthem again here. That makes four golds for Germany so far, and the WEG is just half over: Two in dressage, one in eventing and one in vaulting. You'll probably be able to add show jumping and driving to the list, too.

Megan will likely just vault as an individual now, unless, she said, she finds another team as special as the FAME squad that got covered with glory here.

The Swiss vaulters, who finished fourth, just out of a medal | © Nancy Jaffer 2006

The Swiss vaulters, who finished fourth, just out of a medal | © Nancy Jaffer 2006

It was coached by Emma Seely and Devon Maitozo, who has an individual bronze medal of his own on his resume from the 2002 WEG.

The multi-talented Devon also competed, designed the dramatic red and white costumes, did the choreography and picked the music for FAME's freestyle. It told an entrancing little story, which I think was about love, though I'm not sure. Anyway, it was beautiful and fluid. I am amazed at the vaulters, who do handsprings off the slowly cantering horse (who is also judged) and in general seem to ignore gravity and the fact that they are involved with a large, moving animal.

Devon put his individual vaulting career aside to be part of the team, since vaulters over 18 can only be on the team or perform as an individual competitor; not both, as Megan did. It certainly was worth it, not only for the medal, but for the entertainment value. I think this act should play Vegas!

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