The 2006 world championship is set to provide an interesting battle for the medals among the vaulting ladies. There is no big favourite as last year’s two top performers Nicola Ströh from Germany and Rikke Laumann from Denmark are both injured.
This leaves the field wide open and there are at least four ladies that could take a place on the podium. Anja Barwig of Germany, 2005 European Champion, will definitely try to be on top again although her last appearance, CVI Munich, was not promising when she finished sixth.
Sissi Jarz of Austria, 2005 European bronze medalist, is in excellent form and has already won three CVIs this year. Her freestyle with the theme ‘Swanlake’ is beautiful to watch, and despite the high technical complexity, it is fluent and elegant while her horse Escudo Fox is much calmer and more reliable than last year.
Eighteen-year-old American Megan Benjamin was very impressive at CVI Munich, where she earned second place. Competing on the German horse Centuro, she has good chances to win a medal in Aachen.
And last but not least, there is Germany’s Ines Jückstock, one of the most experienced vaulters of all time with two bronze medals at World level and three from European Championships. With her excellent technique in compulsories and a very dynamic free style she will definitely be a contender for a spot on the podium.
Everyone is curious to see if there will be a new female World Champion this year, and perhaps, even the first one ever not to be of German nationality.
In contrast to the female competition, one vaulter has dominated the male individual vaulting scene for the past two years: Kai Vorberg from Germany with his reliable horse Picasso. Whoever wants to be the new World Champion in Aachen, will have to beat Kai.
That person could be Matthias Lang from France; double World Champion (2000, 2002) and one of the best vaulters with his own unique style. His moves on Farceur Breceen are smooth, elegant and fluent, yet dynamic and powerful, while Matthias is well-known for his sensitive interpretation of music and emotional choreographies. Matthias retired in 2003 before making a comeback at the 2004 World Championships, where he won silver behind Kai Vorberg.
Other vaulters of note include Petr Eim from Slovakia, who is very talented and technically brilliant but is slightly disadvantaged by his small horse Catalin; Martin Ararat from Spain with his ever-spectacular free styles; and Gero Meyer and Tim Randy-Sia from Germany.
The team competition is definitely the most spectacular to watch with three vaulters together on the horse performing acrobatic and artistic moves and figures high above the ground. It is also the only discipline where athletes of very different age groups compete together and within the same team.
In the American team the youngest vaulter is aged just 10, while the eldest is 31. This team, the FAME Vaulters from California, will be a good bet for a medal. The team includes Devon Maitozo, individual World Champion at the 1998 FEI World Equestrian Games in Rome, who is famous for his eccentric and very creative choreographies.
After a win at CVI Munich in July, the American team look a good bet, but the competition is still very open and there is no major favourite this year. There are about five teams who are good enough to win gold. And in the end, it probably will be a matter of luck and nerves.
The titleholder is Germany, while 2005 European Champions Slovakia will definitely be aiming for a medal again. Austria, 2005 European bronze medalists, will be dangerous and Switzerland, Germany’s biggest opponent in past years, can never be discounted.
Previous World Champions
1986 Silke Bernhard (GER)
1988 Silke Bernhard (GER)
1990 Silke Bernhard (GER)
1992 Barbara Strobel (GER)
1994 Tanja Benedetto (GER)
1996 Tanja Benedetto (GER)
1998 Nadia Zülow (GER)
2000 Nadia Zülow (GER)
2002 Nadia Zülow (GER)
2004 Nicola Ströh (GER)
1986 Dietmar Otto (GER)
1988 Christioph Lensing (GER)
1990 Michael Lehner (GER)
1992 Christioph Lensing (GER)
1994 Thomas Fiskbaek (DEN)
1996 Christioph Lensing (GER)
1998 Devon Maitozo (USA)
2000 Matthias Lang (FRA)
2002 Matthias Lang (FRA)
2004 Kai Vorberg (GER)