World champion Joanne Eccles (GBR) captivated crowds at the FEI World Cup™ Vaulting 2014/15 second qualifier at the Salon du Cheval in Paris at the weekend, winning the female individual competition, followed swiftly by the Pas-de-Deux with her younger sister Hannah (GBR).
Defending FEI World Cup™ Vaulting and former world champion Nicolas Andreani (FRA), known as "Nico" to his many fans, also stormed to male individual victory in Paris, where a total of 18 athletes from seven countries battled it out.
Joanne Eccles displayed her full range of style and skill on WH Bentley, lunged by her father John Eccles, earning an outstanding 8,828 points, which gave her 15 World Cup points as she targets the Final next year.
This was her first international competition since securing her second consecutive world title at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 this summer. Before heading to Paris, Eccles had said she wanted to show “how amazing vaulting is”, explaining “when spectators enjoy my performances I enjoy them even more.” In Paris, she definitely reached her goal, impressing the audience with two clear and extremely difficult freestyles, including performing her unique one-handed handstand, which has become her trademark this season.
Individual vaulters now have an additional 20 seconds to impress the judges following a recent rule change to extend the one-minute routines. Eccles, the 25-year-old dentist from Scotland, said of these precious extra seconds: “It allows more time to really engage the audience and to truly feel the performance. It was a great competition in Paris as always, and the arena and organisation were brilliant for us and the horses.”
Corinna Knauf (GER) finished second with Echt Stark and her sister and lunger Alexandra Knauf, with Hannah Eccles (GBR) securing third on WH Bentley also lunged by her father John Eccles.
Nicolas Andreani secured the male individual spot 705 points clear of his nearest rival. His classy performance on Just A Kiss with Marina Joosten Dupon, who has been his lunger and coach since he started vaulting as a child, earned him 8,933 points. “Thanks everyone for your great support!”, said Andreani to his loyal fans, who came in droves to cheer him on in Paris.
Lukas Klouda (CZE) finished second with Echt Stark and his sister and lunger Petra Cinerova, with Lukas Heppler (SUI) also collecting vital FEI World Cup™ Vaulting points with third place on Waimar CH lunged by Barbara Zürcher.
The Pas-de-Deux competition in Paris ended with the same duel as last year, but this time Germany’s Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs on Danny Boy lunged by Patric Looser were denied the number one slot by Joanne and Hannah Eccles, who finished with a 285-point lead (8,828). Gera Marie Grün and Justin van Gerven (GER), training partners of Engelberty and Jacobs, finished third.
A total of 16 vaulters, including the reigning FEI World Cup™ Vaulting champion Anna Cavallaro (ITA), will now head to the third qualifier of this series at the spectacular Salzburg Arena Messezentrum (AUT), which has played host to the likes of Bryan Adams, Pink, Carlos Santana and Bob Dylan.
FEI TV Live
Tune in to FEI World Cup™ Vaulting in Salzburg live on FEI TV (www.feitv.org) on 13 December (13.00 local time).
Male individual: 1. Nicolas Andreani (FRA), 8,933; 2. Lukas Klouda (CZE), 8,228; 3. Lukas Heppler (SUI), 8,037 (full results here)
Female individual: 1. Joanne Eccles (GBR), 8,828; 2. Corinna Knauf (GER), 8,248; 3. Hannah Eccles (GBR), 7,968 (full results here)
Pas-de-deux: 1. Joanne Eccles/Hannah Eccles (GBR), 8,602; 2. Pia Engelberty/Torben Jacobs (GER), 8,317; 3. Gera Marie Grün/Justin van Gerven (GER), 8,132 (full resultshere)