As the curtains opened on the Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup Final™, the athletes took to the competition circle for the first time in Omaha. With excitement levels high, the German athletes kept their cool and took the top spot in all three events.

The home nation’s hopes were on Kimberly Palmer as she entered with Christoph Lensing and Romeo. Her new technical routine didn’t quite hit the mark with the judges, leaving her in 4th place in the overnight standings, 7.489. Hungarian Blanka Nemeth had an excellent start. She opened the show with Lunar Eclipse and Kimberly Wellman and showed her worth sitting in third, 7.554.

The young Swiss star Danielle Bürgi packed her Technical test full of difficult sequences and creative transitions, which, combined with a top score from Best Brew and Andrea Selch has her comfortably in second place (8.092). However, Kathrin Meyer saved the best until last in the Female competition. Entering the arena with San Classico S and her Mum Sonja Meyer she floated through her test with elegance, grace, and beauty earning an 8.299 from the judges.

“It’s amazing, the lights create a different atmosphere than on normal competition and also the audience is great and I am really happy to be here,” said Meyer.

Averill Saunders struggled to make some of her sequences flow on top of Max, lunged by Sarah Krauss (6.388) and was left disappointed with her debut World Cup round. There will be plenty more to come from the young Canadian in the future.

In the Men’s competition all eyes were glued to the circle as Sam dos Santos entered. At only sixteen there is a bright future for the Dutch star. He earned second place (7.952) and captivated the audience aboard Max with Sarah Krauss. Andrin Müller (SUI) proved he too had made a successful partnership with Max and Sarah but sits some way behind in third on 7.176.

No one came close to Germany’s Jannik Heiland, who took the lead and can sleep well with a 0.484 point lead over his closest competition. He made the decision, after arriving in Omaha, to compete on San Classico S with Sonja Meyer, and had only sat on the horse a few times before today’s competition.

Today he proved he is worthy of the title of Champion, but we must wait until Saturday to see if he can win it. The backward stand proved tricky for many of the individual competitors today but none so much as Daniel Janes. He was 90 per cent through a well-executed Technical Test when he prematurely dismounted costing him heavily (6.081).

The atmosphere and anticipation grew in the CHI Health Center as we moved to the Pas de Deux competition. Austrian pair Romana Hintner and Eva Nagiller set the score to beat (7.657). Their horse Killian and lunger Mary McCormick have so far proved a solid combination. The Danish pair came next, Freja Linde and Maria Thinggaard Sorensen along with Lunar Eclipse and Kimberly Wellman. They performed a clean routine for the judges but were only rewarded with 7.267 points.

As the competition heated up, the first of the German combinations entered. Presenting a new concept, Diana Harwardt and Peter Künne danced their way through their Freestyle until DSP Sir LauLau noticed Diana had lost her arm number and decided to stop as it was in his way. The pair were unable to counteract the movement and Diana took a tumble from quite a height. Fortunately, they were all okay and the score took the worst impact leaving them in fourth place on 7.236. After a dramatic end to the previous test there was some tension as the final German pair entered.

Justin Van Gerven and Chiara Congia had made the decision earlier in the day to change from their planned horse, Highlight FRH to Max after Highlight didn’t seem 100% in the morning. They are World Champions for a reason. With Alexandra Knauf on the lunge the duo stunned the audience as they stuck every single move. They rightfully stole the lead and are heading for the title on Saturday scoring 8.370.

After the round Van Gerven said, “It was tough, we had to work on the horse but I think we all did a good job, the horse and the lunger and we are happy.”

Thursday evening was black, red, and gold and it’s going to take some vaulting to prise the title from any of our current leaders. However, this is horse sport, and anything can happen. We wait in keen anticipation until Saturday for what will be another nail-biting finale of the Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™.