South Africa had 11 representatives at the 2011 Vaulting European Championships in Le Mans, France.
Vaulting became an FEI discipline in 1983 and saw its first FEI European Championship organised just one year later, in the town of Ebreichsdorf in Austria. This 15th edition of the Championship ÔÇô which also included the European Juniors competition, returned to France for the fourth time, but for the first time in the world renowned venue of Le Mans, famous for its 24 hour race.
South Africa were one of 20 participating nations: The others were Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Nederland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America .
The South African contingent was made up of two senior males ÔÇô Bongani Mvumvu, Jasyn Gertenbach, two junior males ÔÇô Damien Pretorius, Dylan Jones, three senior females ÔÇô Candice Elston, Montana Wright Zahne Pienaar, three junior females ÔÇô Alexa Stais, Chelsey Gertenbach, Julia Pitchford and one junior female reserve, Anacy Tainton
Coaches Barbie Gertenbach and Steffi Waidmann prepared the vaulters well at their respective training camps in the Netherlands and Italy for three weeks prior to the competition, where the vaulters applied themselves diligently to physical and mental training and familiarizing themselves with the European horses and lungers to be used in the competition.
All arrived together with the teams’ highly competent and organized Chef d’Equipe Paula Taylor and her assistant chef Megan Taylor on the Monday and were greeted by a hot le Mans, with great excitement all acquainted themselves with the show facilities and amenities. The Tuesday was a very busy day anxiously awaiting the vetting of their horses, important as without the horse the competition does not happen! Great celebrations as all horses to be used by the SA squad successfully passed the test, after which all practiced in the environment and arenas to introduce the horses with the hall, flags and going.
Wednesday marked the start of the European Championships with Julia, Alexa and Chelsey being the first SA vaulters to compete in ninth, 10th & 11th place of order. Sadly Pablo Picasso the horse on which Alexa was vaulting spooked as a result of a flashing cell on the electronic board on the side of the circle, this distressed the horse and he could not sustain an even canter, making it very difficult for Alexa to perform her compulsory moves resulting in a poor result.
This distressed all the South Africans as we know Alexa had the potential and experience to have achieved a score in the top 15. Julia, in her first international event and the youngest vaulter competing in the champs achieved the best score for the SA females and Chelsey vaulted well and made SA proud.
Senior females Candice, Montana and Zahne vaulted well in their first international event, but came up against some stiff competition and experienced vaulters.
As the champs progressed our vaulters did their compulsory and freestyle rounds, for some a few challenges were experienced as vaulting is a sport where anything can happen good and bad, something Dylan sadly discovered.
Proudly Damien made the top 15 in the junior males an amazing achievement being his first international competition. Bongani once again made it into the second round in senior males and vaulted well considering he had an ankle injury during the training period achieving the best score in the SA males. Sadly Jasyn too injured his foot during training but was not able to compete at all at the risk of aggravating the injury.
Reserve junior female Anacy who was well prepared was thankfully not required to substitute.
A special thanks to parents, family and friends who travelled to France to make up an awesome SA support squad, there unfailing enthusiasm + encouragement was greatly appreciated.
An event of this calibre as well as the preparation leading up to it allows our athletes to gain invaluable skills, experience and places them in a better position for the next event.
Once again our SA vaulters did South Africa proud and all have returned safely enthused and motivated to train and apply themselves.
Final results of the European Championships held in Le Mans, France.
Class Vaulter Score Place
Junior Female: Julia Pitchford 6.596 ÔÇô 19th
Chelsey Gertenbach┬á 6.269 ÔÇô 27th
Alexa Stais 5.286 ÔÇô 37th
Montana Wright 6.194 ÔÇô 26th
Zahne Pienaar 6.153 ÔÇô 27th
Candice Elston 5.316 ÔÇô 31st
Damien Pretorius┬á ÔÇô┬á 15th
Dylan Jones 6.058 ÔÇô 18th
Bongani Mvumvu┬á ÔÇô┬á 15th
Jasyn Gertenbach┬á ÔÇô┬á did not compete