WEG Resumes with Jumping, Vaulting
Ireland’s Bertram Allen steered the lovely grey mare Molly Malone V to win the opening speed leg of the jumping championships today.
Photo: Dirk Caremans/FEI
The Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games resumed today in Normandy, France as the jumpers and vaulters got their first chance to compete at the event.
Jumping: Sensational Win for Young Irishman Allen as French Top Early Team Standings
In a sensational start to the jumping championships, Ireland’s teenage star Bertram Allen won the opening speed leg with a brilliant performance from Molly Malone V. The 19-year-old, who hails from County Wexford but is based in Munster, Germany and is coached by German ace Marcus Ehning, set a super-fast target when 40th to go in the field of 153 starters. And despite their best efforts, the world’s leading riders simply couldn’t match the time achieved by the young Irishman and his lovely grey mare.
French rider Patrice Delaveau lined up second with Orient Express HDC, securing pole position for the host country in the team rankings going into tomorrow’s second test, while Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and Conrad de Hus finished third ahead of America’s Beezie Madden on Cortes C.
The Top 10 after today’s opening competition reads like a “who’s who” of the sport, with 2011 FEI European champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) filling fifth with Casall Ask, world number 9 Penelope Leprevost from France in sixth with Flora de Mariposa, and this year’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champions, Daniel Deusser and Cornet D’Amour from Germany, slotting into seventh place.
Lying eighth individually is Canadian phenomenon and 10-time Olympian Ian Millar who, at 67 years of age, is almost 50 years older than today’s winner. The man affectionately and respectfully knows as “Captain Canada” cruised into the top-10 line-up with consummate ease riding the 11-year-old Dixon, a horse with a pedigree connected to his legendary partner Big Ben.
Lying ninth is Sweden's Peder Fredricson, team silver medalist at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, while The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam, individual champion at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, is well placed in 10th.
Irishman Darragh Kenny produced the first clear over Frederic Cottier’s course when second into the arena with Imothep. But the 14-fence track would prove a significant test, with many horses more than impressed by the Norman theme that included a model of Mont St Michel, a herd of sheep grazing in a meadow, cartloads of fresh apples and even a bottle of French wine that adorned the space between the optional elements of the double at fence eight. This proved a pivotal point on the course, with a number of refusals and falls.
In total, 10 horse-and-rider combinations failed to make it around the track.
Despite Allen's tender years he has a lot of experience under his belt, and his form in recent months includes a brilliant victory in the Longines Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show just a few weeks ago. And of course he’d given warning of his intent when consistently successful at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 test event earlier in the summer.
Talking about his winning ride today, he said, "The mare jumped out of her skin. The plan was a good solid round, but she took everything in her stride and we were able to get a great round in, so I'm over the moon! She has quite a bit of experience of going fast against the clock and we know each other well, so we know what we can and can't do, and we got the measure right today.”
And talking about the course, he said, “The water down to the planks was the most difficult part, but in fairness the course is very good. There are five or six little things that are causing an equal amount of problem, not one fence.”
He said he thrives on pressure, and he’s had plenty of it in his young life because he’s already something of a championship specialist: “This is the biggest stage I’ve ever performed on, and it’s a completely different level again, but I’ve had quite a bit of experience with under-age championships for ponies and juniors and I was reserve in Barcelona last year (at Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 Final).”
Asked if it is true that he has taken a medal at every championship in which he has competed so far he replied, “Yes, I don't know how I managed that! I suppose there was a bit of luck along the way. It would be great if the luck could keep going for one more championship!”
Like every other nation fielding a team this week, Olympic qualification is a major goal, and with clears from all of Allen’s fellow team-members the Irish are lying just two places off the top five slots which will pave the way to Rio 2016 when the team medals are distributed on Thursday. But the French are feeling pretty confident in the overnight lead, even though only a single fence separates the top six nations going into tomorrow’s second challenge.
The French are closely followed by Sweden in second, the United States in third, Germany in fourth, Netherlands in fifth, and Canada in sixth.
Course designer, Frederic Cottier talked about the challenge he faced today and what lies ahead: "I had to create a course for 160 horse-and-rider combinations at different levels, and I didn't want the less experienced ones to lose confidence too early, so I created free turns so the best horses could make tight turns, but there was freedom for the riders to make their own decisions. But tomorrow will be very different.”
Millar put the rest of the week into perspective today: “There's 180 or whatever horse and rider combinations here and pretty much all of them are pretty good, and they have good horses. When you look at that then it's a daunting task, and you just think this is a mountain we've got to climb here and I believe that's what championships are all about, and that's why it brings out the very best in everybody.”
A total of 150 horse-and-rider combinations go through to tomorrow’s first round of the team final competition, which is also the second individual qualifier, and it is Portugal’s Mario Wilson Fernandes and Zurito do Belmonte who will be first into the arena.
All teams go into tomorrow’s competition, but only the top 10 will qualify for Thursday’s second round of the team final, so it’s critical from the outset when the action resumes in the D’Ornano Stadium tomorrow morning.
Vaulting: Austrians head the Squad, Ferrari and Laumann Top Male and Female Compulsory Competitions
Team Austria’s vaulters got off to a great start when topping the Round 1 compulsory competition today. Partnering their steady and reliable horse Alessio I Amabile, they collected a score of 7.872 to finish ahead of Germany in second while Switzerland slotted into third place.
A total of 17 nations are competing for the world championship title at the Zenith Arena in the Parc des Expositions in Caen this week. The fantastic venue is a theatre designed by Jacques Millet and Claude Renouf which opened in 1993. It has staged concerts featuring many major stars including Leonard Cohen and has also hosted the Cuban National Ballet.
With state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, the 7,000-seater stadium has already proven a huge hit with vaulting enthusiasts who roared support for their chosen teams throughout today’s competitions.
German Chef d’Equipe, Ulla Ramge, was full of praise for the venue: “This is the best arena we have ever had for our sport,” she said this afternoon.
Judges Pavla Krauspe (SVK), Sue Detol (USA), Anna Kull (SUI), Veronigue Girard (FRA), Katolina Wickholm (FIN0, Anita Flamand (AUT), Helma Schwarzmann (GER), and Elzbieta Dolinska (POL) placed Germany’s Rikke Laumann at the top of the female individual compulsory class. Lasse Kristensen longed Laumann’s Ghost Alfarvad Z to a winning score was 8.435.
Runner-up was Great Britain’s Joanne Eccles on a mark of 8.350, while third place went to Switzerland’s Simone Jaiser on a score of 8.300.
The female individual competitions have the biggest entry, 32 in total, and it was Italy’s Anna Cavallaro who lined up fourth today ahead of Germany’s Corinna Knauf in fifth and America’s Mary McCormick in sixth place.
The male individual compulsory was a triumph for the home side, with France's Jacques Ferrari pipping fellow-Frenchman Nicolas Andreani while the Brusewitz brothers, Viktor and Thomas, slotted into third and fourth for Germany.
Ferrari led for the much of the way with the Brusewitz brothers filling second and third, but when Andreani scored 8.300 he slotted in behind Ferrari’s winning mark of 8.410 and relegated the Brusewitz duo.
A total of 17 lined out in the male individual compulsory event.
Germany’s Erik Oese finished fifth ahead of Austria’s Lukas Wacha in sixth, and it was a great result for ninth-placed Lambert Leclezio from Mauritius who was representing his country for the first time at world championship level thanks to FEI Solidarity funding.
Andreani has big ambitions this week and is thoroughly enjoying the great venue. "I've never competed in such a beautiful arena before. We really are in the limelight here, and the spectators are very close which just adds to the experience,” he said today.
"My friends and my whole family are here, including my grandmother Noelle who has travelled 900 kilometers to support me. As defending world champion, I would of course love to win gold at the first WEG in France—seeing a tricolore on the podium would be even better!"
Vaulting continues tomorrow with the freestyle starting at 9:30 a.m., while the technical test and first pas-de-deux will take place on Thursday. The finals for all four events—squad, individual female, individual male, and pas-de-deux—will all be held on Friday.
POLL: Beating the Heat in Horse Barns