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The French national anthem rang out twice over the weekend at the FEI World Cup Vaulting qualifier in Paris as Manon Noel and Clément Taillez delighted the home crowd by performing with utter ease and class to take the title by dominating their respective classes.
The competition got off to an electric start on day one, as the crowds flooded in to watch the second leg of this FEI World Cup™ series.
In the male category, Clément Taillez dominated from beginning to end, with an outstanding freestyle master class of his ‘Dance’ routine – a contemporary, classical mix. Together with Dyron and Cedric Cottin Holzberger he scored 8.488 to take the title for the second consecutive year.
Hungary’s showman Balazs Bence, who, after finishing 3rd in the series opener in Madrid, came to Paris on borrowed horse Safari H and convincingly secured the 2nd place position (7.584).
In his FEI World Cup™ debut for Australia, James Hocking secured the 3rd place finish with a total of 7.277. Together with seven year-old mare French Kiss – in her first season – and with renowned lunger Lasse Kristensen, Hocking made quite an impression.
Fourth place went to current world silver medallist Vincent Haennel (7.026) who suffered a fall and some difficulties on day one, whilst the USA representatives Kristian Roberts (6.464) and Daniel Janes (5.550) finished 5th and 6th respectively.
Fresh off the back of her 5th place finish at the series opener in Madrid last weekend, Noel got the action underway by being the first competitor to go in the female class on day one. Unperturbed by the magnitude of the home event, she threw down the gauntlet by performing a resounding rendition of her ‘Amelie Poulain’ freestyle. Together with Kirch de la Love and Kevin Moneuse she scored 8,365, the pressure was firmly on the field for the rest of the competition.
Whilst Sheena Bendixen (DEN) and Sandra Anderberg (SWE) made history for their respective nations, the day also marked ‘salto queen’ and 2015 FEI World Cup winner Lisa Wild’s (AUT) return to the World Cup stage.
After the first round Noel was positioned in the lead with the narrowest of margins, and we saw an unprecedented tie for second, with both Corinna Knauf (GER) and Carola Sneekes (NED) lying on a score of 8.333 - only a mere 0.030 behind Noel.
The competition was on!
During the second round, the horses and vaulters were noticeably more settled in the impressive Paris arena. Anderberg (7,123) and Wild (7.461) finished 5th and 6th respectively.
Unfortunately, Bendixen (DEN) suffered a fall from the horse towards the end of her freestyle, which she debuted for the first time in Paris set to the song ‘River’ by Bishop Briggs. However, it was still enough to maintain her position and finish 4th on 7.522.
Now it was down to the business end and with a mere hair separating the top three who could hold their nerve.
The competition belonged to Noel, who performed an outstanding freestyle, smiling throughout, she looked entirely comfortable and at ease in front of the home crowd.
With minimal deductions and creative characterisation she took the title on 8.448. Noel was clearly overcome with the magnitude of her achievements.
Denmark, Sweden and Australia made their FEI World Cup debut – further evidence of the global expansion of this visually exhilarating sport.
Hocking (AUS), Anderberg (SWE) and Bendixen (DEN) have become trail blazers for their respective nations.
This FEI World Cup™ Vaulting qualifier belongs to the home nation of France, which fought off tough competition to prove the world beating calibre of vaulting they are capable of.