If you asked the Team USA vaulters how they were feeling this afternoon, they’d answer with a chorus of screams. They feel that good, because they pulled out a come-from-behind win to earn the team gold medal at the Vaulting World Championships, held as part of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
“We really connected today—we looked each other in the eye,” said team member and coach Devon Maitozo. “Our horse was just beautiful, and we had the love of the audience with us, which helped. We just were in our bodies today.”
Today was a contrast from the previous team freestyle competition on Friday, when two team members fell from their horse, because, said Maitozo, the team horse, Palatine, was spooky in the arena. The U.S. team had led after the compulsory exercises, but then dropped to third place after the fall, behind Germany and Austria.
To prepare for Sunday’s round, Maitozo said, “We made a different plan for the horse and for ourselves. We took a step back from the intensity of the energy before. We really calmed ourselves down, collected ourselves, and the horse had a longer warm-up but a much more calm warm-up.”
The plan worked, and the judges rewarded the U.S. team with the highest freestyle score of the day (8.779), which brought their composite score up to 8.029
The team’s lyrical performance was set to music from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a ballet that was “spiced up” by Maitozo, said team member Rosalind Ross. She added, “That’s how we strive to set ourselves apart from the rest of the competition, by making vaulting more like a dance performance and a theater performance, not merely gymnastics on horses.”
“We want it to be a dance,” said Maitozo. “We want it to be a drama of emotion, of movement, elegance – with the horse, not against the horse. We’re dancing with the horse, not on the horse.”
Other U.S. team members were Blake Dahlgren, Annalise Van Vranken, Mary Garrett, Mari Inouye and Emily Hogye. The team longeur and horse trainer is Carolyn Bland.
The experienced team previously won the 2010 United States Equestrian Federation/American Vaulting Association national title. Members of this team were also on the 2006 World Equestrian Games silver-medal team and the 2008 bronze-medal team in the World Vaulting Championships. Maitozo was the individual gold medalist at the 1998 World Equestrian Games.
“I would say this is probably one of the most experienced teams of all time,” Maitozo said. “Cumulatively, the years that this team has been vaulting is well over 120 years. We have a long relationship.”
Germany, which had been leading going into Sunday’s freestyle, suffered a fall in the performance but still had a strong enough composite score (8.010) to earn the silver medal.
Team member Michaela Hohlmeier said, “It’s just sad, [but] it’s sports, so it can happen.”
Germany vaulted aboard Adlon, a 15-year-old Brandenburger, and the longeur was Alexander Hartl.
Austria turned in a vigorous freestyle performance, set to the music of Cirque du Soleil, to earn the team bronze medal ( 7.990).
Team member Daniela Penz said “it was teamwork” that resulted in the team’s best freestyle performance this year. “Everyone wants a medal – and gets a medal!” she said
The Austrians were vaulting on Elliot 8 and, and the longeur was Klaus Haidacher.
About the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Games are held every four years, and this will be the first occurrence in the United States.
The Games will be broadcast on NBC Sports, which marks the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $167 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International Inc., Meydan, Kentucky Ale, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
For more information on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, visit www.alltechfeigames.com.
Founded by Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech is a global animal health and nutrition company with 30 years’ experience in developing natural products that are scientifically proven to enhance animal health and performance. With more than 2,300 employees in 120 countries, the company has developed a strong regional presence in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. For more information, visit www.alltech.com.