Photo caption: Simone Jäiser, Swiss national champion and businesswoman by day, won the last qualifier for the FEI World Cup™ Vaulting in Leipzig (GER), securing her spot at the series Final in Graz (AUT) on 19-22 February 2015. (im|press|ions/Pascal Duran/FEI)
By Alexander Bird
Switzerland and Germany dominated the fourth and last qualifier of the FEI World Cup™ Vaulting 2014/15 at Leipzig's famous Partner Pferd (GER) last weekend, with Simone Jäiser (SUI), Thomas Brüsewitz (GER) and pas-de-deux stars Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs (GER) celebrating outstanding victories.
A total of 17 athletes from seven countries battled it out in front of a sold out crowd to score vital selection points for the series Final, which takes place in Graz, Austria's second largest city after the capital Vienna, on 19-22 February.
Simone Jäiser, the national Swiss champion and businesswoman by day, celebrated her first win of the series in Leipzig, after placing second at the opener in Munich (GER) and third leg in Salzburg (AUT).
The crowd went wild at her interpretation of a Chinese fighter. "I'm a huge fan of Simone Jäiser, but with this freestyle she has really surpassed herself. She was outstanding," said German television commentator and former lunger Susanne Wahl.
On her horse Luk, lunged by her mother Rita Blieske, Jäiser finished on 9,003 points, the highest score in Leipzig, with a healthy 168-point lead on reigning FEI World Cup™ Vaulting champion Anna Cavallaro (ITA) lunged by Nelson Vidoni on Harley (8,835), with Christine Kuhirt (GER) placing third on Fuzzy with lunger Stefan Lotzmann (8,310).
With the Final in Graz now just less than a month away, Jäiser is now second in the series standings behind Austria's Lisa Wild. "The first three places at the Final will be very tight. Everyone will be in top condition. I'm aiming to show clear rounds and now I have no doubts that this will be possible," said the confident Jäiser, after her spectacular winning performance in Leipzig.
German vaulters, all protégés of national coach Ulla Range, filled the podium in Leipzig led by Thomas Brüsewitz, twice European Junior Champion (2010 and 2011), who scored 8,686 points on the 24-year-old chestnut gelding Airbus, lunged by Irina Lenkeit.
"Leipzig is my absolute favourite leg of the World Cup," Brüsewitz said after giving the audience a glimpse of his new 2015 routine. "Before the competition I was unsure if I should go ahead with my new elements, but it worked really well!"
Dresden-born Erik Oese, bronze medalist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 (FRA), on Down Under, which he borrowed from fellow Wild Card competitor and close friend Daniel Kaiser, finished just 0,008 points behind Brüsewitz with lunger Andreas Bäßler (8,678), with Kaiser securing third place (8,400).
Tarzan and Jane
Austria's Stefan Csandl and Theresa Thiel slotted into second place in Leipzig behind Germany's Pia Engelberty and Torben Jacobs, the pas-de-deux silver medalists at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 (FRA). The pair won over the Leipzig crowds with their striking Tarzan and Jane choreography on Danny Boy, lunged by Switzerland's former world champion Patric Looser, who also won this exciting series twice in a row in 2011 and 2012 before retiring as a vaulter (8,856 points).
Much to the disappointment of this brilliant team, they will unfortunately not be lining up at the series Final next month because the 24-year-old Engelberty has to sit Sports Studies exams at the University of Cologne.
Next stop Graz
FEI World Cup™ Vaulting 2014/2015 has seen the world's best 30 vaulters from nine nations battle for points across a four-leg European city tour to qualify for the Final next month in Graz.
The top six female and male vaulters, and top four pas-de-deux, based on their best two results in the series, will come together at the "Fest der Pferde" on 19-22 February, where they will all start from scratch.
Male individual: 1. Thomas Brüsewitz (GER), 8,686; 2. Erik Oese (GER), 8,678; 3. Daniel Kaiser (GER), 8,400.
Female individual: 1. Simone Jäiser (SUI), 9,003; 2. Anna Cavallaro (ITA), 8,835; 3. Christine Kuhirt (GER), 8,310
Pas-de-deux: 1. Pia Engelberty/Torben Jacobs (GER), 8,856; 2. Stefan Csandl/Theresa Thiel (AUT), 7,992.