Ottawa, ON, Aug. 2, 2023 – Averill Saunders of Sundre, AB, continues to push the boundaries for Canadian vaulting winning a silver medal at the FEI Vaulting World Championships for Young Vaulters & Juniors held July 26-30, 2023 in Flyinge, SWE. The medal, which she won in the Individual Female Young Vaulter division marks the first time a Canadian has been on the vaulting podium in World Championship competition.

Saunders came to the event hoping that a heel injury she sustained in competition in April would not hold her back and prepared to deliver technically challenging performances in the newly created youth division with a field of 33 competitors from 17 countries. The division featured three performances, comprised of a first round with both compulsory and technical tests, each worth 25%, and then a second-round free test worth 50% of the overall score.

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

Saunders wears the maple leaf during her compulsory test.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

Anticipation was high for Saunders coming into the competition in 6th place in the FEI world vaulting rankings as well as recently being named EC’s Junior Equestrian of the Year. She made only a small error in her initial compulsory test and started the next part of the round in fifth place on a score of 7.633. She trailed just behind three leading young vaulters from Germany including Alice Layher with the best score of 8.247 and Austria’s Anna Weidenauer with 7.852.

In the second test of the round, the 19-year-old achieved the highest technical score with an impressive 8.747 with her partner Rockemotion (Rockwell x Di Versace) and groom and lunger Nina Vorberg, who co-owns the 15-year-old Westfalian gelding with Kai Vorberg and Hans-Peter and Marlies Krukenburg. Her combined technical score of 8.190 put her in second place going into the second and final free round behind Layher who remained in first with a combined score of 8.364.

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

Averill Saunders technical test which she had debuted at the World Championships in Herning in 2022, earned the highest technical score of all the Female Youth competitors at 8.747.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

“My experience here was unique compared to other championships that I’ve done in the past,” said Saunders about what made the difference for her in Flyinge. “I traveled here with a really incredible team standing beside me as well as being able to start once again with Nina Vorberg and Rockemotion was super special for me.”

“My training for this event was also unique with only being able to come back to training four weeks prior to my heel injury,” Saunders continued. “It was eight-hour days, six days a week, training on both my main horse and my reserve horse. I did about five or six hours of ground and gym training every day trying to get back to where I was. Considering the circumstances, I’m quite happy with how far I was able to come.”

All the training and preparation paid off for her. In the second round, she then delivered an extraordinary free test scoring 8.644, just behind Layher’s 8.848, maintaining her second place overall to finish the competition with the silver medal, a Canadian first. 

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

Saunders and lunger as well as Rockemotion’s co-owner Nina Vorberg on the podium in Flyinge, SWE.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

“It’s really surreal for me to win Canada’s first medal,” she said emotionally. “Mostly because it’s a monumental step forward for Canada in the sport, but also because of the significance of this event for me. The final freestyle day here in Flyinge was to the day, my 10th anniversary of being in the sport. It made it a little extra special.”

The Championships were not just special for Saunders. The whole team, everyone at home cheering and the entire vaulting community were excited to see this first for the young woman and for Canada. For the tight-knit family of athletes and supporters, many were happy to be there in person to witness it. Like Chef D’equipe Charlene Kostecki who has known Saunders since the beginning of her journey. 

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

Canada’s cheering squad.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

“Watching Averill dismount after her freestyle was absolutely incredible – the look on her face when she knew she had completed what she had set out to do, it was pretty magical,” said Kostecki. “For me personally, I have known Averill since she was a child and to witness her achieve a medal after her years of hard work was a truly extraordinary experience.”

Reflecting on how she felt leaving Sweden, to head back to her training base in Germany, Saunders had gratitude for the entire community. “I’d just like to say that I’m incredibly grateful for the overwhelming amount of support that I’ve received from not only Canada, but all the other countries within the sport. It’s cool coming from such a small country vaulting to feel like I have the support and the encouragement from all of the other countries as well.”

Also appearing for Canada in round one of the Individual Female Young Vaulter division was Megan Leeper, 20, of Strathmore, AB. Leeper finished with a final score of 6.997 for 16th place partnered with Don Zeno (Zofe x Zeus) a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding lunged by Nicole Voithofer. 

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

Daniel Klotz-Dedora had a top 10 performance in the Male Individual Junior Division with Canadian Horse Zorro, the only Canadian horse to travel to Sweden.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

In the Individual Male Junior division, Daniel Klotz-Dedora, 16, of Cochrane, AB, produced a top-10 finish for the maple leaf. Performing with Zorro, a 10-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned and lunged by Angelique Vick, he secured 9th place on a final score of 7.584.

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

The Pas de Deux Kromer-Anton twins performed a strong final free test to secure 7th place
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

In the Pas de Deux Junior division, twins Selina Kromer-Anton, 16 and Julia Kromer-Anton, 16, of Nelson, BC, produced another top-10 finish for the maple leaf. Performing with the German Flying Dutchman, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding lunged by Larissa Bleidistel, finished in 7th place on a final score of 7.086.

Averill Saunders Wins Canada’s First-Ever Vaulting Medal with a Silver at FEI Vaulting World Championships

The Canadian Junior Squad were strong with a 6th place finish.
Photo Credit: Kaiser Impressions

The Canadian Junior Squad of Katherine Van den Bosch, 14; Jaydee Fluet, 16; Lynda Van Noordenburg, 16; Daniel Klotz-Dedora, 16; Emma Sparrow, 11; and Emily Consaul, 17 – all from Alberta, partnered with Canadian Sport Horse Zorro and lunged by Angelique Vick, put on a great showing across three tests and finished in 6th place on a final score of 6.805.

In the Junior Individual Female division, Ryan Bracken, 17 from Caroline, AB did not continue to the second round but placed in 35 with Nugat, lunged by Michelle Kueng. Lynda Van Noordenburg, 17 from Didsbury, AB finished in 40th with Wallis lunged by Nienke De Wolff. Jaydee Fluet, 16 of Sundre, AB rounded out the juniors in 55th place.

For more information and full results from the 2023 FEI Vaulting World Championships for Young Vaulters & Juniors, click here. Recordings of the performances can be viewed on ClipMyHorse.tv.

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