2015 FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors
By Lyn Lynch & Suzanne Playfoot
Just over six months ago the Team Zēlos journey began in the Southern Highlands of NSW. A vaulting camp conducted by Ali Divita and Kerrie Wilson was held with the intention of gathering interested vaulters for the first FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors to be held in August 2015. The vaulters who participated at this camp shared a dream and this weekend in Ermelo Netherlands that dream became a reality.
Nine vaulters from all over Australia continued to train intensively together on a fortnightly basis and set goals for their training at home with their own clubs. The team consisted of:
Emily Jones NSW
Isabella Napthali NSW
Eliza Wark-Chapman NSW
Ginger Kennett NSW
Kelsea Haste NSW
Mckeira Cumming Qld
Alex Playfoot Vic
Rebecca Vandepeear SA
Kieran Halliday WA
As the year progressed the team trained on several horses around Australia and competed at four competitions including Sydney Royal, Scone Horse Festival, Ella Springs and Qld State Championships. Each competition was with a different combination of horses and vaulters which meant modifying the routine to suit and giving six vaulters a start in each event. Ali Divita was joined by Bamdad Memarian from Cologne Germany, to share the coaching role and as the year progressed the tribal themed performance evolved. The elaborate costumes were designed by Ali and made by Kerrie Stapleton and involved hours of intricate hand work.
In early June, prior to being selected to represent Australia, the squad left for Europe and attended clinics in Denmark, Krumke and finally three weeks training in Cologne on the horses that they were to be using at the Championships. During this time in Europe the vaulters found themselves training alongside World Champions and on some of Europe’s top vaulting horses and with worlds best coaches.
The FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors held on the 8-10th August was for Individuals, Pas de Deux and Squad vaulters aged 18yrs and under. During the week leading up to the Championships Australia’s Chef d’Equipe Rebecca Chambers along with the parents and supporters of Team Zelos made the journey to Ermelo in the Netherlands.
The FEI event was spectacular in every detail, from the formality of the Veterinary Inspection to the excitement of the Opening Ceremony our Juniors embraced the atmosphere with great competitive spirit. A very touching moment was when the youngest athletes from each Nation were invited to join together to assist with the FEI Flag raising and 11 year old Bella Napthali stood amongst her peers as Australia’s representative in the ceremony. The highlights of the Opening Ceremony also included a pas de deux with World Champions Joanne Eccles (UK) and Jacques Ferrari (Fr) and a dressage demonstration by two Friesian Stallions.
The horse that Australia chose to compete on at the Championships was from Cologne and experienced in teams competition. Warrel, a 9yr old 17.2 hh Warmblood gelding owned by Gerlinde Grun and lunged by Alexandra Knauf, stole the hearts of our vaulters as he gave them a perfect platform to show their best routine with his consistent and regular canter.
The first round of the competition consists of the compulsories where all six vaulters show the prescribed exercises. Australia was coming 11th after this phase with a score of 5.564. The second time Australia entered the main arena was for their first display of the freestyle routine which scored a credible 6.135. This left Team Zēlos sitting in 10th place going into the final round.
With twelve teams competing on the final day, Team Zēlos drew second. Having already displayed their routine in Germany at the home of Team Neuss, and now having performed their freestyle in the championships in round one Zēlos were confident in themselves, Warrel and Alexandra, and were determined to show their best. The freestyle scored 7.437 and it ended up being the fourth highest freestyle round of the day. Team Zēlos and their supporters were overwhelmed with the result, a final score of 6.135 and a commendable eighth place. According to Joanne Eccles she “was chuffed at how well the Australians performed and so glad to see that Australian vaulters were up there in the field”.
As the members Zēlos celebrated on the Sunday evening, their Team Manager Sarah Jones thanked Ali Divita and Bamdad Memarin for their coaching along with everyone who played a part in getting this team to the championships. It took all of Australia’s support and input to get Team Zēlos to the FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors, and coming away with a great result was a bonus.
Photography by DigiShots Monquie deSmit