September 3, 2014 -- The second day of vaulting consisted of the First Round Freestyle Tests for the Squads, Individual Females, and Individuals Males at the Zénith on Wednesday. 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) saw an array of intricate performances from the top-notch field of competitors. The scores from Tuesday's Compulsory Tests were averaged with today's Freestyle Test scores to determine the placings after round one in the three championship divisions. The top 12 Squads and top 15 Individual Females and Males will move forward for the second round of competition.
The Woodside Vaulters have received high marks in their Freestyle Test throughout the year and aimed to do the same in Normandy. With their "Wizard of Oz"-themed Freestyle, 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.) entertained the judges and the audience with their playful and well-choreographed routine. The squad had challenging choreography with several triple exercises involving three vaulters at one time and some impressive lifts.
Unfortunately, a slip resulted in two vaulters falling during their routine, but the girls carried on and finished strongly. Vaulting on Stanford, a 1998 Hanoverian gelding owned by Julie Divita and Woodside Vaulters and lunged by Divita, the U.S. squad received a score of 7.034, ending up in 13th place in the Squad First Round Freestyle Test. After the first round of competition, the U.S. Squad is in ninth place on a score of 6.850. "I think we handled the pressure really well. Even though we had a bobble, we made a really good recovery, which is difficult to do," Kiernan said. "I think we are going to come back on Friday and do a really good job."
The group showed great maturity by handling the less-than-ideal situation with poise, all the more impressive by the fact that their ages range from 10 to 17. The squad has been working together for almost a year and was originally formed to head to the FEI World Vaulting Championship for Juniors in 2015, but showed such promise, receiving high marks from the judges in competition, that they are competing in their first FEI World Equestrian Games against many of the Senior squads from other countries.
"These girls have so much self-motivation, so much self-drive.These six young ladies have worked so hard together. They have this energy that we couldn't stop, it was a snowball," lunger and trainer Julie Divita explained. "We won our first selection trial and then we kept winning and winning and winning. We are the unexpected underdog team that is supposed to be at the Junior World Championships next year and here we are this year going up against the Seniors."
Austria finished first in the Squad First Round Freestyle Test with a score of 8.956. Germany wasn't far behind with a score of 8.926 to end up in second place, and France came in third on a score of 8.391. Following the first round, Germany is atop the leaderboard with a score of 8.390, with Switzerland in second on 8.357 and Austria in third on 7.907.
Elizabeth Ioannou (Saratoga, Calif.) had a stellar Individual Female First Round Freestyle Test with Jarl, Lasse Kristensen and Emma Seely's 1998 Dutch Warmblood gelding lunged by Kristensen. Performing her Freestyle to fun, modern-type swing music, Ioannou had a notable routine with quality stands and a solid jump. She earned a score of 8.347 to finish in eighth place in the First Round Freestyle Test. After the first round, Ioannou lies in ninth place with a score of 7.959.
"It was really fun running in, but then I stood in line and got a little nervous, but the arena was really cool," Ioannou said. "The atmosphere is really nice; it just felt like me and my horse. I just tried to go out there and have fun." Mary McCormick (Woodside, Calif.) demonstrated a strong Freestyle, though it wasn't one of her smoothest performances.
However, she was happy with certain parts of her routine, such as her jump dive off the neck of the horse. McCormick did her Freestyle to the song "Haunted," by Beyonce, because she felt a connection with the creativeness and individuality expressed in the album. Vaulting on Palatine, a 1998 Westphalian gelding owned by Sydney Frankel and lunged by Carolyn Bland, McCormick scored 7.869 to end up in 13th place in the First Round Freestyle Test. After two days of competition, she is in eighth place with a score of 7.975.
"It was a little bit of a rough go for me. I felt like it was a little slippery on the surface of the horse, but the positive things to reflect on were that the energy from the audience was really amazing, so performing out there was really a lot of fun, and my horse is on his 'A' game, and you can't ask for anything better than that."
Also working with Palatine and lunger Bland, Mary Garrett (Mountain View, Calif.) did not have her strongest Freestyle Test, but delivered nice moments in her routine. Garrett performed to the song "Bad Sometimes," by Randall Breneman, because it goes with her personality. She received a score of 7.301, putting her in 25th place for the First Round Freestyle Test. Following the first round, Garrett ended up in 20th place on a score of 7.391.
"That was a pretty rough go for me. I didn't feel so good about it. I had a really hard time sticking my feet on the horse," Garrett said. "I'm really happy that I got this one move that has been plaguing me all season, so when I was in the arena I was really glad to get that one move down."
Joanne Eccles (GBR) won the Individual Female First Round Freestyle with a score of 8.888, and leads after the first round on a score of 8.619. Rikke Laumann (DEN) was second in the Freestyle with an 8.652 and lies second in the division on a score of 8.544. Anna Cavallaro (ITA) was third in the Freestyle on a score of 8.645, but Simone Jäiser (SUI) is third after the two rounds of competition on an 8.439.
Kristian Roberts (Moss Beach, Calif.) had a wonderful Freestyle Test to earn a score of 7.745 from the judges. He started things off with a nice handstand from his vault on and kept going from there, finishing his routine with a great dismount. He vaulted on Diva 506, a 2003 Oldenburg mare owned by RVC Gilching e.V. and lunged by Bland, whose steady canter helped him to slot into 10th place. After two days of competition, Roberts is in 12th place on a score of 7.459.
Gabe Aniello (Austin, Texas) put together a satisfying routine that he felt had the same quality as the day before. He displayed a strong musicality with the song "My Body Is a Cage," by Peter Gabriel, in his performance, helping him to score 7.226. Vaulting on Ferdinand 194, RVC Gilching e.V.'s 2000 Hanoverian gelding who was lunged by Bettina Gross, Aniello finished the day in 13th place in the First Round Freestyle Test. After the first round of competition, he is in 13th place with a score of 7.341.
"It went well; a normal first round, a little shaky at parts but for the most part awesome. Ferdinand, as always, was great," Aniello stated.
Patrick Stevens (Martinez, Calif.) had a good routine, which contained a tough sequence of ground jumps, with Stanford and lunger Julie Divita. He had an error with his dismount, but he was happy with his routine. For his music, he used a song that he likes and suited his horse, which showed in his performance. Stevens was 14th in the First Round Freestyle Test with a score of 7.127, finishing the first round of competition in 17th place with a score of 6.988.
"The adrenaline brought me through that whole thing," Stevens said. "It was so much fun, just one move at a time and remember to keep breathing and I did it."
Jacques Ferrari (FRA) took top honors in the Individual Male First Round Freestyle Test with a score of 8.838 and sits atop the leaderboard after two days of competition with an 8.624. Fellow Frenchman, Nicolas Andreani, was second in the Freestyle with an 8.740 and lies in second after round one on a score of 8.520. Erik Oese (GER) claimed third place in the Freestyle with an 8.589 and in the round-one standings with a score of 8.348.
The third day of vaulting competition gets underway Thursday at 2:00pm local time with the Individual Female Second Round Technical Test. The Individual Male Second Round Technical Test begins at 3:40pm, followed by the Pas de Deux First Round Freestyle Test at 8:00pm.
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.