Switzerland will take a narrow lead into Friday’s eagerly-awaited team finale of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Jumping Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG).
Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca heads the individual competition, which finishes on Sunday. The host nation of the United States also made its presence felt through brilliant displays by McLain Ward and Adrienne Sternlicht that pushed the team into second behind the Swiss, with Germany in third.
Joining those three nations in the final at U.S. Trust Arena will be Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Australia, Great Britain and Canada, with the top six finishers all securing prized Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020.
As he had done for the opening flurries on Wednesday, course designer Alan Wade (IRL) produced another immense course that tested combinations to the maximum.
So much so, there were only five clear rounds without time faults from the listed 122 starters – De Luca, third-placed Peder Fredricson, of Sweden, Germany’s Simone Blum in fourth, Irish challenger Cian O’Connor, who is fifth, and seventh-placed Max Kuhner of Austria.
Switzerland’s lead would have been more than just 0.95 penalties had overnight leader Steve Guerdat not had a fence down in his round, but Janika Sprunger led the way with just one fault, matching the scores of American pair Ward and Sternlicht.
Reflecting on his round with Clinta, Ward said, “The last line was very difficult and I decided to do the one extra stride and ran out of room and somehow the horse fought her way through that situation. She was just spectacular. We are right up there in medal contention and we will just stay focused on that.”
De Luca, meanwhile, was drawn right at the end of a long day’s action aboard Irenice Horta, and he said, “That was really difficult as I watched many riders and it was a long day, but I had a good chance to watch a few rounds and I know my mare so I figured out what I needed to do. She is in super shape, and she did another amazing round. She has a great mind – I just need to ride good and give her the chance to do her best.”
While De Luca is top of the individual roster, arguably the round of the day belonged to O’Connor and Good Luck. They did not need one ounce of luck, though, not touching a pole in delivering a jumping masterclass.“He walked around the course. He jumped it easily,” O’Connor said. “He is an extraordinary athlete. He has learned to be a little more economical with his jump – when I got him, he jumped very high and up – so we had to teach him to relax and jump across the fences more, but now he can do everything.“He has learned to compact himself like an accordion and make that spring off his hocks.”
Team medals will be decided on Friday afternoon, while the top 25 individual riders at the end of the team competition will progress to Sunday’s final, which is two rounds, plus a jump-off if required.
Italian Victory in Vaulting Pair’s Competition
Italian flags flew high when Lorenzo Lupacchini and Silvia Stopazzini jumped on the podium winning gold in the Christie’s International Real Estate’s Vaulting Pas de Deux at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG). Silver went to Austria’s overnight leaders Lindner/Wacha and Bronze was for Germany’s Derks/Kay.
The world’s No.1 pair from Italy set all their heart in the Freestyle, earning 9.027 with high 9’s for artistic value as well as the technical execution.
Lupacchini had set his own ambitions as an individual vaulter aside for the sake of the pair’s competition and it was worth it.
“We are really happy because we did what we prepared in training over this year,” he said.
In the end, it was the horse’s scores and a little wobble that put the Austrian title holders from WEG 2014 on Silver. Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wache have trained together for eight years and won the first ever Pas de Deux World Championship title in 2012. Understandably they were quite disappointed after they lost first place by 0.014 point, finishing on 9.013.
“We had invested a lot and then a small mistake in the beginning of the Freestyle made all the difference,” said the 31-year-old physiotherapist, Wacha.
Germany’s Janika Derks and Johannes Kay interpreted the emotions of energy to score 8.872.
“We showed the utmost what we can do and are happy with a medal. Competition was very tight and it was a great final.”Torben Jacobs and partner Theresa-Sophie Bresch (GER), finishing fourth with a Spanish medley, and summed it up. “This must have been the strongest pairs’ competition ever. So many 8’s and 9’s – and to be here at WEG will be in our hearts forever.”
Boe Leads Heading into Women’s Finale on Saturday in Individual Vaulting Competition
Germany’s Kristina Boe leads the overall Individual Female’s ranking going into Saturday’s final Freestyle on 8.278 in front of Austria’s Lisa Wild (8.229) and her compatriot Janika Derks on 8.228.Derks is known for her power and strength in Vaulting, but could not quite stand her dismount from Carousso Hit. Despite this mishap her technical was the best of the day.“The dismount was expensive. Touching the ground is one point off (from the performance score). But the others have to get everything right as well,” said Derks.
World Cup winner Boe kept her lead from the previous Compulsory and Freestyle even though strong Janika Derks topped her in the technical movements.Italy’s defending WEG-silver medalist Anna Cavallaro injured a knee when dismounting, and although she is still ranked fifth overall, it is doubtful that she will participate in the final competition on Saturday.
France’s Leclezio Moves into First Place in Men’s Individual Program
France’s Lambert Leclezio put his best foot forward showing the top technical program of the day with fluid sequences between the prescribed movements, earning 8.443 points, placing him in front of Colombia’s 18-year-old Juan Martin Clavijo (8.166) and Jannis Drewell (GER) on 8.166.“I just wanted to go out on the good vibes after the Freestyle yesterday, which was not good at all,” said 21-year-old Leclezio who had moved from the island of Mauritius to France for better Vaulting opportunities.At his second WEG, the top technical score pushed Leclezio in the overall lead before the final Freestyle for the medals on Saturday.Germany’s Jannik Heiland and Jannis Drewell are in second and third. The third German Thomas Brüsewitz, fourth at WEG 2014 and vaulting as the Prince of Bel Air in the technical, lost his lead and now ranks fourth.“It is not all lost yet,” said Brüsewitz.
Team Germany Leads the Squads Ranking
Team Germany lead the Squad standings on 8.405 after two rounds before going into the final Freestyle for the medals to be hosted on Saturday. The defending title holder’s advantage from Team Norka is the thinnest possible, as they are only 0.001 points ahead of Team Luetisburg for Switzerland. The silver medalists from WEG 2014 are on 8.404.Austria (7.977) has more to catch up on if they want to improve their medal with Italy breathing down their necks (7.846), and it will be a hotly contested lungeing circle at TIEC’s Indoor Arena on Saturday, starting at 12:00 p.m. EST.
Race For Team Medals Underway In Adequan Para-Dressage
Great Britain’s Sophie Wells led from the front as the race for team medals took center-stage in Adequan® Para-Dressage on Thursday. Britain’s Para-Dressage team boasts one of the longest unbeaten records in sport, having won every Team Gold medal available at World, Paralympic and European levels.Wells ensured a strong start for them at Tryon Stadium after posting a score of 77.233% to top Grade V by an emphatic margin from the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar, riding Alphaville N.O.P.
Wells’ teammate Sir Lee Pearson, meanwhile put behind his retirement in the Grade II Individual championship with Styletta on Tuesday to finish third in his section and ensure Britain were well-placed overnight, with two more riders – Natasha Baker and Erin Orford – set to complete their tests on Friday.
France currently lead the way, but all four team riders have performed their tests, with the in-form Netherlands second and Japan third. Strongly-fancied trio Britain, Denmark and Brazil all have half their team line-ups still to ride, while the Netherlands are also strong Gold medal contenders.
“I knew I needed to up my game from the other day for the team,” Wells said. “I had a look at my test with my coaches and looked at different areas. You learn to deal with the pressure and I just focused on what I needed to do. All the other nations are getting so much stronger and the horsepower is incredible in the sport. We want to retain our title, but we can only do the best that we can do.”
For Pearson, who needs one medal in Tryon to become the most decorated Para-Dressage rider in FEI World Equestrian Games™ history, it was a case of him showcasing all his ability and experience to score 71.606% in a section that saw Individual Gold medallist Stinna Tange Kaastrup again come out on top.
“I was not worried about the placing today,” Pearson said. “I rode calmly and passionately in there, and said thank you to her (Styletta) on every transition. She has been brilliant here, with the environment, with the arenas. I thought she would be petrified, but she hasn’t been, and I do believe that she will be a fantastic championship horse for the future.”
Kaastrup, meanwhile, continued her impressive championship on Horsebo Smarties, recording a winning margin of almost two per cent from the Netherlands’ Nicole den Dulk, who finished second on Wallace N.O.P.
“Everything that we talked about that I was supposed to do in there, we did, and I am super proud about that,” Kaastrup said. “The horse is amazing and I learn a lot from him. I am feeling really good, especially with the score I delivered.”
Grade IV riders closed the opening day of team competition – medals will be awarded following Grade III and Grade I on Friday – and it was Individual Gold medalist Sanne Voets who again delivered the goods with Demantur N.O.P.Their score of 76.550% beat Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico into second, with Belgium’s Manon Claeys taking third.“He was amazing. He was so sharp, willing and obedient, and I think this is what makes it so beautiful when two becomes one – when a horse and you are in perfect harmony,” Voets said.
“The pressure is on the British now, and we like that. We came here with one aim, and that was to win a team medal to qualify directly for Tokyo.”
For more information on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and to view start lists and results, please visit www.Tryon2018.com.
To purchase tickets or for more information about the WEG, please visit www.Tryon2018.com.
About the Tryon International Equestrian Center
Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort, host of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, is one of the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destinations, with first-class facilities for all eight FEI disciplines. From carousel to competition, the mission of Tryon Resort is to celebrate the magic of the horse, grow equestrian sport, and increase access to this majestic animal. Tryon Resort is a spring, summer and fall haven for equestrian competitors and enthusiasts, and a year-round destination for connoisseurs of diverse cuisine and shopping, lodging getaways, and family entertainment. Learn more at www.Tryon.com.
About the FEI World Equestrian Games
The FEI World Equestrian Games™, held every four years in the middle of the summer Olympic cycle, is the property of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world governing body for horse sport organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar, combining World Championships in the Olympic disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Eventing, the Paralympic discipline of Para-Equestrian Dressage, as well as Driving, Endurance, Vaulting and Reining.
The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, and Aachen (GER) in 2006. The first Games to be organized outside Europe were the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) 2010. The Games came back to Europe for the 2014 edition, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy (FRA), which attracted more than 500,000 on-site spectators and a worldwide television audience of 350 million, as well as delivering an economic impact of €368 million to the French economy.The Tryon 2018 Games offer qualifying slots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.