The Coast Line Vaulters of Santa Cruz, Calif., captured a team bronze medal for the United States at the Vaulting World Championships, Aug. 4-8 in Stadl-Paura, Austria. Mari Inouye of Palo Alto, Calif., also finished seventh individually in the women’s competition, and Devon Maitozo of Simi Valley, Calif., was the highest-placed American man, in eighth.
The event was held in the recently renovated Austrian Horse Center in Stadl-Paura, a resort town southwest of Linz. The freshly constructed “Sporthalle,” with a capacity of 2,300, played host to the World Championships.
The historically powerful German competitors dominated almost every facet of the event, winning three gold medals. In the team championship two-time defending gold medallists, German representatives VV Ingelsberg (aboard Davidoff 85), successfully defended their title with the highest aggregate score of 8.014/10. The perennial bridesmaids, Swiss team St. Gallen 1 (aboard Dyrakel Dix), once again garnered silver with a score of 7.421.
The United States (aboard Victor Leo Burnett) sat fourth after round 1, just behind the Italian squad. Needing a strong last two rounds to medal, the Americans responded with a combined score of 7.376 for an overall total of 7.205, eclipsing Italy for bronze.
The youthful U.S. team (Katie Bowker, Monique Corraliz, Karensa Douglas, Lisa Maxwell, Kalyn Noah, Marina Olvieri, Katie Richie, Rosalind Ross, Nikki Stoke) ranged in age from 14 to 18. U.S. coach Katariina Alongi was elated with their performance.
“The girls were flawless. Considering that our original horse didn’t pass fit and we only had a few minutes of practice on [Victor], it couldn’t have gone better. Victor is a great horse but, honestly, I didn’t expect us to medal,” she said.
Upon the recent retirement of the world’s most decorated female vaulter, German Nadia Zülow, the women’s individual competition was considered by many to be a toss-up event. After the first round, little separated Germans Nicola Ströh (aboard Centuro), Ines Jückstock (aboard Westpoint) and Rikke Laumann (aboard Milano) of Denmark.
Jückstock’s solid second round of 8.249 guaranteed a medal, but she seemed resigned to silver or bronze.
Laumann responded with a score of 8.581, the second highest woman’s score of the competition, giving her a final score of 8.451. Unfortunately for Laumann, the judges responded to Nicola Ströh’s final riposte. They awarded her the women’s high score of 8.550, ensuring another gold for Germany.
U.S. competitors placed in the top 15 for the first time in the competition’s 18-year history.
Inoye was somewhat disappointed with her seventh-placed finish, having hoped to improve upon her fourth place at last year’s European Championships held in Saumur, France. Although originally slated to vault on the perennially high-scoring German mount Younis, another injury forced her switch to Victor.
“I never want to blame the horse,” said Inoye. “Although I think I could have done better, I enjoyed the competition and hopefully I’ll be able to improve on it next time out.”
Megan Benjamin (aboard Leonardo) of Saratoga, Calif., finished ninth (7.731).
“This was my first World Championships, and I was happy to reach my goal and place in the top 10,” said Benjamin, 16. “The advanced level of vaulting, the excellent horses, and the large and appreciative crowds were really inspiring.”
American Samantha Smith finished just outside the top 10 with a 7.705 aggregate score. Smith (aboard Abu Dhabi 2) also hails from Saratoga, Calif. Like Benjamin, Smith im-proved in the second round, allowing her to pass several competitors in the final classification.
In the men’s final, two-time defending World Champion Mattias Lang (aboard Farceur Breceen) of France stepped out of recent retirement to defend his title.
Lang finished with a strong second round, snatching silver from another German, Jan Bayer. Devon Maitozo (aboard Picton) placed eighth (8.014) to lead the American men. The 1998 World Champion’s final freestyle was one of the highest scoring of the championships. The other American men, Blake Dahlgren and Kenny Geisler, finished 18th and 22nd, respectively.