In an action-packed day for Britain’s vaulters, Joanne Eccles produced a gold medal winning performance in the final freestyle round to take the Individual female gold medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, having already won a bronze medal earlier in the day with sister Hannah, in the Pas de Deux competition.
Today’s medals round off an amazing championships for Britain’s vaulters, as they not only post their highest ever medal tally at a World Equestrian Games, but also had all three British female vaulters in the second (and final) round of the individual competition.
In the lead heading into today’s final freestyle round, Joanne (aboard WH Bentley and lunged by father John Eccles) produced yet another stunning routine to the sounds of Les Miserables, showcasing some of her - now signature moves, including her one-handed cartwheel and handstand. With a score of 9,119 awarded for her freestyle, and an overall score of 8,718, Joanne clinched the gold medal – and with it retained the title she first won in Lexington in 2010.
Commenting she said; “I was really helped by the fact that the arena was so stunning, it’s been a joy to vault in there throughout the competition and the fact that this is the closest we’re going to get to a home Games for us, we’ve had so much British support in there, you run in there and already have a good feeling, it’s been a pretty amazing few days.
“We do it for the love the sport, we want to keep trying to push the boundaries and find something that sets you aside, just to keep improving the sport – it’s an amazing sport to watch generally and if we can keep pushing the boundaries that little bit it’s great.
“We’ve worked really hard on the freestyle performance in particular, the compulsory’s are the worst bit for us, so over the years we’ve worked hard to train them up, once they’re out the way it’s up to you to put your own stamp on your freestyle to come up with moves that are different and set you apart.”
Father and lunger, John Eccles commented on his important role; “The pressure was on but the horse was so reliable, I wasn’t not expecting him to do his job. He’s a fantastic horse, he’s been trustworthy, he’s reliable, just been superb as far as vaulting’s concerned, he’s just been a star.
“Vaulting’s just such a fantastic sport, it gives so much pleasure to everyone that’s involved with it and that’s why we like it so much, it’s just a fantastic sport to be involved with.”
Lucy Phillips with Pitucelli, lunged by her mother Liz Phillips, produced a great freestyle performance earlier in the class, to be rewarded with a high freestyle score of 8,109, which gave them an overall score of 7,730 for eleventh place.
Commenting after her test; “That was my best round that I’ve done, so was really happy with it. It’s been an amazing atmosphere here and competing with my mum and my horse and for Great Britain; going out there and doing my best every round, I’ve really enjoyed it a lot and the whole experience has just been one of the best ever.
“I’m extremely pleased with my results; it was a new arena and different to what we’ve been used to before and obviously it’s a horse sport, so you never know what’s going to happen, but my horse did really well and I just went out and did my best in every round.
“I feed off the crowd’s energy; when I see the crowds waving and the cheers I think ‘ok, I’m going to do my best performance for the fans out there’.”
Hannah Eccles followed Lucy’s test, and with WH Bentley, lunged by her father John Eccles, the duo showcased some lovely vaulting to produce a freestyle score of 8,050, for a total score for the competition of 7,818 and ninth place overall.
“It’s been amazing; we came here and all we wanted to do was to go out and put on a good show and I think that we’ve done that here,” commented Hannah, “to come away with an individual bronze is just phenomenal. I’m extremely satisfied; there were things in every round I could perhaps have done differently but every round I got good scores, and I think my total is one of my best totals for the year.
“It’s insane here, the crowd is electric and amazing and you just try and feed off that for your performance. If you’re coming to a World Equestrian Games you want it to be special and it has definitely been special for us.”
Italy’s Anna Cavallaro (Harley, lunged by Nelson Vidoni) took the Individual silver, with the bronze medal going to Switzerland’s Simone Jaiser (Luk, lunged by Rita Blieske).
Earlier in the day saw the Pas de Deux competition reach its climax, as Great Britain’s Hannah and Joanne Eccles, aboard WH Bentley lunged again by their father John, competed in the second and final round of the competition, which made its debut at this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Vaulting to a unique Fire and Ice theme, inspired by (and using extracts of) Joanne’s favourite poem, Fire and Ice by Robert Frost, the sisters put in a stunning performance to be rewarded with an equally superb overall mark after the two freestyle rounds of 8,575 to take the bronze medal.
Afterwards they commented; “We’re absolutely over the moon and really pleased with our performance. We came to enjoy the competition and put on a show. Everyone is really good here, for us to even be sitting here with a medal is amazing, and to do it as a family is even better.”
“It was really exciting in there [the Zenith arena]. Bentley is such a pro, this is his fourth WEG, he knows what he’s doing and was an absolute star today and did everything that was asked. We had fun in there and we just love doing pairs, it’s been such an enjoyable thing to do.”
The Austrian duo of Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha (Bram, lunged by Laus Haidacher) took the gold, with Germany’s Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs (Danny Boy 25, lunged by Patric Looser) taking the silver.
Chef d’Equipe for the Great Britain vaulting team, Lucy Bell commented; “It’s the first time we’ve had three females into the final, let alone to finish with all three girls in the top eleven. They were all really consistent over all four rounds, which they knew they’d have to be, and have done Personal Bests in some of those rounds. It’s been a great Championships and I’m so pleased for all of them.”