Britain’s Joanne Eccles has taken over top spot in the female individual vaulting competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Joanne, who took the gold medal at the last WEG in 2010, won today’s freestyle competition, scoring 8.888 for her routine (above), performed to I Dreamed a Dream from the musical Les Miserables. As usual, she was lunged by her father John on the family’s veteran horse WH Bentley.

“Music choice is difficult, it took a while to find something I was comfortable working to and which Hannah [sister and fellow WEG vaulter] and Dad felt worked,” said Joanne, who has been using this freestyle all year and added that it seemed appropriate for competing in France.

“I had one little wobble today when my foot didn’t come down in quite the right place, but it wasn’t big — I can’t really complain if that’s my only problem.”

Joanne’s score for round one (yesterday’s compulsory and today’s freestyle) is 8.619. This puts her 0.075 ahead of Denmark’s Rikki Laumann, who won yesterday and scored 8.652 to finish second to Joanne today. She wore an outfit covered in stars to perform her routine, which is about the “play between cold and warm”.

“I was happy — I felt my horse lost a step at the end and I lost two movements because of that, but the rest I was satisfied with,” said Rikki.

Switzerland’s Simone Jäiser holds third overall, after being fourth today behind Italy’s Anna Cavallaro, who still sits fourth in the full leader board.

Joanne’s younger sister Hannah has moved up to 11th in the overall standings after a strong performance today netted eighth. Her routine is performed to music from the film 300: Rise of an Empire.

“I haven’t actually seen the film, but I wanted something with a Greek goddess feel,” said Hannah. “I vault better to fast music and Joanne vaults better to slow music, so it makes a good contrast when we go after each other [vaulters on the same horse always perform consecutively].”

After today’s competition the top 15 vaulters go forward to round two, a technical test tomorrow and another freestyle on Friday. All three British vaulters have qualified to continue as Lucy Phillips sits 12th. She finished 10th today with her The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo freestyle.

Vaulter Lucy Phillips' dragon tattoo, WEG 2014“I’m really pleased,” said Lucy, whose outfit included a dragon tattoo (right). “I get a bit nervous for the first freestyle round, but I tell myself I’ve done it so many times and I just want to go out and enjoy it.

“I had one little slip, but I covered it up with a nice arm movement — that’s the nice thing about freestyle, you can just do a different hand or leg movement if something isn’t ideal.”

In this morning’s squad freestyle, Switzerland’s all-girl team put in a fantastic performance, with the only obvious blip being when the flyer touched down in a dismount. But they won the test with a score of 8.596, vaulting on the grey Will Be Good, lunged by Monika Winkler-Bischofbef. This means they have moved up to silver in the overall standings, with Germany (second today) rising to gold.

Last night’s leaders Austria slipped to bronze after finishing fifth today — their horse Alessio L’Amabile broke to trot at one point, which did not make it easy for the vaulters.

The squads do not compete tomorrow. The top 12 go through to the final freestyle on Friday, after which the medals are decided.

In the male individual freestyle, France’s Jacques Ferrari remains at the head of affairs after topping the freestyle today with 8.838. His compatriot Nicolas Andreani was second again, so stays in silver on the overall leaderboard. There are only 17 competitors in the male contest, so just two do not progress to tomorrow’s technical test.

Britain is not fielding a squad or any male individual vaulters, but the pas de deux competition, in which the Eccles sisters are competing, starts tomorrow.

Bluffers’ guide to vaulting

Blog about squad freestyles

Results and times

More WEG news online all this week; report on the WEG vaulting in the magazine out next Thursday, 11 September. 

Picture of Joanne Eccles by Stephen Sparkes