Chiara Congia and Justin Van Gerven (GER) with Max – FEI / Richard Juilliart.
While there was little doubt that Germany would go home with a title, the question ahead of the Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final was just how many could they win?
Kathrin Meyer (GER) had one foot firmly on the podium after her technical test, and she made it clear with her freestyle that she had no intention of letting anyone else have the top spot. Powerfully, she moved through her robotic freestyle to take the title at her debut FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final. Together with her Mum, Sonja Meyer, and her own horse, San Classico S, the trio proved an unbeatable combination (8.428).
“I’m really happy; it was the first time I showed my new freestyle… and my new inside ground jump worked pretty well. I’m really happy with that,” said Meyer.
Danielle Bürgi (SUI) remained hot on the heels of the German vaulter. However, even with her creative freestyle winning the round, it wasn’t enough. Vaulting on Best Brew, lunged by Andrea Selch, she finished in second, only 0.082 behind (8.346).
Professionalism and experience shone through for Julia Sophie Wagner of Germany. A technical hitch led to a music error at the start of her round, but she didn’t falter and instead pulled off an excellent freestyle to rise up the rankings and finish in bronze medal position atop DSP Sir Laulau with Hendrik Falk (7.791). The USA’s Kimberly Palmer was left just outside the medal positions, scoring 7.736.
In the Men’s competition, the first-round scores made all the difference. Home favourite Daniel Janes performed the second-best freestyle but was unable to move up the leader board, finishing in sixth (7.190). Switzerland’s Andrin Müller excited the crowd and he clung on to his well-earned day one third place, giving Andrea Selch and Best Brew another podium finish (7.514).
Despite overbalancing in an early ground jump, Sam dos Santos just about held it together. He recovered well and showed glimpses of huge potential in his freestyle for this season. The Dutch vaulter finished his first FEI Vaulting World Cup Final™ in second place, with Max and Sarah Krauss, and is sure to already have his eyes on the title (8.052).
On this occasion, the men were completely outclassed by Jannik Heiland. With a 0.5-point lead, and on his 5th attempt, the German vaulter calmly executed his freestyle and took Sonja Meyer and San Classico S to the top of the podium for the second time.
“It’s a massive arena; it was a very great feeling and it’s an honour for me to be here. To win the World Cup Final, it was a big wish for me to get this title my whole life,” he said.
The German domination continued into the Pas de Deux class. There was no problem for DSP Sir Laulau and Hendrik Falk, allowing Diana Harwardt and Peter Künne to dig deep and ensure to overcome as much of the deficit from the first round as possible. A massive 8.516 in the second round threw down the gauntlet for the remaining combinations and set 7.876 as the final score to beat.
“We were so grateful that we could show the whole freestyle, and the last block was good, and we couldn’t hope for more,” said Künne.
Danish combination Freja Linde and Maria Thinggaard Sorensen went smoothly, but it wasn’t enough, and they settled for fourth, 7.641. With slight hesitations, Romana Hintner and Eva Nagiller couldn’t keep Austria ahead as they were pushed into in third place at 7.832.
As Chiara Congia and Justin van Gerven entered for their swan song, they only had to be clean to take the title. In a momentary loss of balance, Justin came off the horse after a freestanding lift. Quick reactions from Chiara kept her on and reduced the points lost by the error.
They completed the test in spectacular style, but had to wait for the final scores to see if the slip had cost them the title. Fortunately, they proved too strong for their competitors and clearly won the class, with Alexandra Knauf and Max. They finished as the only pair with a final score above 8.0 (8.341).
“It’s always special to win a competition. Then it’s a World Cup Final; that’s amazing, a new title for us; we weren’t able to win that one yet, and then flying to America and to make this amazing journey is also really special,” said Van Gerven.
The Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final has proved an incredible show of teamwork and horsemanship for all involved. The first Final out with Europe was a huge success; however, the Germans have shown they mean business and they don’t look like they’re willing to give it up any time soon.
by Joanne Littlejohn