This interview dismisses an introduction. Joanne Eccles is simply the most successful vaulter in activity today with two golden medals in World Equestrian Games and another one in World Champion. She was unbeatable in the final round of freestyles in Normandy and scored 9,119.
Check out as she comments on the future and answers a very simple question: doesn’t she grows tired of being just awesome?
1. You have won so many important championships. Including 3 world gold medals. I have a question that might seem a little bit strange: Doesn’t it get boring? What changes from year to year that keeps you going?
It definitely doesn’t get boring!! To begin with I only ever dreamed of winning one FEI medal – no matter the colour. Then after I achieved this it was amazing and I had won a European gold so wanted to try for WEG again. I was so fortunate that I was able to do this and so my next target became trying for gold at the next Europeans and Worlds so then I had all four – as this was the top goal. Meanwhile Hannah and I had been doing pas de deux and had the silver medal 3 times including one worlds. So after 2012 I had to think, but the idea of not competing is crazy, I love the sport and I had achieved my goals but still I needed to vault, not for success, for the enjoyment, friends, horses and love of it. So it made it easy to continue and to compete how I like of course I still wanted to achieve but I could really enjoy it rather than having any pressure to do well or achieve something I hadn’t. Then this year, one more WEG, and Normandy is as close to home as I will ever compete so I really wanted to have a good year and in particular a freestyle I really am proud of and shows my passion for the sport. Once again I was so lucky to win another WEG, its crazy!
2. How did it all start? When did you decide you wanted to be a vaulter and be on top of the world?
I started vaulting age 8 as my neighbor did it in a team and they wanted a little person. I began to love it and then my Dad and sister became involved and we started a club of our own in 2001. I competed for Great Britain every year (except 2001) since 1999. At first the goal was to be selected for GB and to go to the championships. Then as we began to improve in the sport I set small goals: to get into the second round or top 10, and the biggest then was to win a CVI. I’m so lucky that my Dad gave up so much time to learn to lunge and coach and to drive us to all the CVI’s. Only once we began to be more successful at CVI’s did we aim for the top 5 in championships then a medal… it was a slow process for us, one goal at a time. When I started to say I wanted to be World Champion would be ridiculous.
3. What are your plans for the future?
For the future… who knows. We are having some time off now, but have our British Championships in 3 weeks time, then we hope to compete in some World Cup competitions and over the winter we will have some time to discuss and decide on plans for next year, for us and for all our club vaulters.
4. We had many new participants on this last WEG, we even had a new category being disputed. Did you have the opportunity to watch others perform? Can you name a vaulter or a team that surprised you that we should look for in the future?
It was brilliant to have the Pas de Deux at WEG, of course for us because Hannah and I love to do it together. It was such an exciting and high standard class that everyone who competed in it made sure it was World class and worthy of being at WEG.
I was surprised anyway by the number of teams and the newer countries with teams competing. For WEG 17 teams is brilliant, and there were many vaulters in these teams who have a lot of potential. I was only able to watch the males and team competition as a stand out Lambert from Mauritius did one of the best Technical Test’s at the whole competition. It was great to watch and he will be brilliant in future.
5. How was the whole WEG experience for you? Do you still get nervous before big competitions? Did you have fun? When did you guys arrive in Normandy before the competition?
WEG for me was amazing! It definitely had some ups and downs as well as some funny moments… in fact I did a filling for someone who was there working the logistics, as they had cracked a tooth and I had some temporary filling material to use. We had had some problems with one of our reserve horses before we left, he reacted to a vaccination and couldn’t come so there was a lot going on before we left home. He is much better now. It meant that we couldn’t be too concerned about the competition and anyway we know that WEG is an experience to be enjoyed and to soak up as it may not happen for us again.
It was great fun, the competition arena was one of the best I’ve ever competed in, the whole competition was so friendly and the atmosphere was so enthusiastic and lively.
We arrived on the Saturday in Deauville where the horses stayed the night and we came down to Caen and to our hotel so we could be ready for the horses to arrive on Sunday. It was a pretty close competition for us, only 9 hours to Dover then we stay there a night then the ferry for 1 1/2hrs and 4 hours drive to Deauville.
6. How do you fit vaulting in your everyday life? How is your training schedule?
Im lucky this year I have worked part time so a Tuesday is free for training, mainly in the morning then our club trains in the evening and on a Sunday. We also keep a Saturday free for training. We will also do another session on the horse one evening during the week straight from work. Aside from that there is fitness and conditioning, and I like to play hockey to keep fit then we have a couple of fitness programs for strength and conditioning. Of course there always has to be time left over for fun!
7. What was the biggest sacrifice you had to make to get where you are now?
I don’t think I have really sacrificed anything because vaulting has always been what I wanted to do most so anything else didn’t matter so much. I gave up dancing when I was younger to do more vaulting and I could have been going out more with my friends but I would much rather stay home and go training. I was so lucky to be able to study at university and train, but most lucky that our training arena is on our farm so we can use it whenever and the horses are always there.
8. Up to now, what’s the most important competition you’ve ever been to? Do you have a memorable freestyle you made that you could mention?
It’s so difficult to pick a most important competition. I think all the small CVI’s I went to in 2005/6 were really important for me and learning how to cope with being in the lead for the first time or not being in the lead if I wanted to. However the championships I went to when I was just starting are important too as there is where I found my idols, saw them winning and wanted to be the same.
Wow, a memorable freestyle… I have to pick two. My freestyle in 2009 ‘Lady in Red’ I loved this music and it won my first medal. I would still love to vault to it again. And of course this year’s freestyle and specifically final round at WEG, when every move went as I planned and I could do my last sideways stand and really enjoy the moment, it was amazing!!!