WEG: Interview with Johannes Kay

During the past weeks, we’ve been trying to gather on Vaulting News a few interviews with different vaulters who participated on the last World Equestrian Games in august.

We’ve talked to the Palmer sisters, Pia Engelberty and Joanne Eccles. Today though, we sent a few questions from our readers to Johannes Kay.

Johannes is a member of the golden squad from Germany, Neuss Grimlinghausen. He’s been in the team for only a year, but already is one of it’s shining stars, with his expressive moves and dramatic interpretations. Johannes was probably one of the best (if not the best) standing bases we saw during the WEGs. He comes from what I saw people calling the “Kay Vaulting Dinasty”; his sister is none other than Sarah Kay, whom we all missed at the WEGs, btw,  he is also brother of Julia Kay, who was part of the golden ingelsberg team.

Johannes kindly answered all our questions. Most of them were sent by our readers, and he managed to answer them in full detail. Check it out:


  1. What is your daily exercise / sports from routine?

So, I practice about 4 times a weak (depends on the Season)

First the team meets at the training room (it’s in the riding Hall) in order to prepare ourselves for the part with the Horse (warm up)- it consists  of  several exercises that get constantly switched from practice to practice ( so the boring fitness/basis exercises can be arranged alternately) Jump strength, coordination, stretch, balance, posture are trained (arranged to each person according to their individual weakness ad strength)

Afterwards or simultaneously we practice on the wooden Horse and the „movie“ (wooden horse that gallops) what we do depends on the focus of the training, compulsories or freestyle.

Then the horse comes in. We pass whatever we talked about and corrected at the training room and on the wooden horse (first compulsory, then freestyle) right to the horse.

At last, we usually go back to the training room to go over details and correct mistakes that might have happened on the horse

In Winter there are also 1 to 2 days, in which we do mostly basic (strength) training and practice on the wooden Horse.

  1. What’s a typical day like in your life?

I wake up at 7:10, get myself ready (nothing really special) and ride my bike to the School of Physiotherapy (short before I buy something to drink/eat throughout the day). From 8:45 to 16:15 I am at School, then I either go to practice (most of the time) or go home.

When it comes to training, I’m home again approximately between 21-22 clock. (Varies from workout to workout)

When I go home right after school (rarely), I try to cook me something tasty for dinner. Then I study (through sport often I miss something) in between I sometimes go jogging or watch a little tv

(those days are very “unspectacular”J)

  1. Do you have a life motto?

I don’t have a special Motto, but I like to direct myself trough some quotes like „all or nothing“ and „no risk, no fun“…

  1. Currently we have been seeing a very big movement of vaulters from one club to another in Germany. What do you think about this movement?

In my opinion each one should decides where they want to go. I myself have switched a lot, and the main goal for me was always to find the optimal place in sport. Obviously there are other factors that play a role, but the goal for me (and in some way to my family as well) was always to find the optimum. Of course everyone has different reasons to changing clubs, so I cant really give a general answer. All I can say is, that it has always worked for me.

  1. Did you have the opportunity to watch other vaulters during the WEGs? What were, for you, the biggest surprises concerning new vaulters or teams?

I sadly didn’t have the opportunity to watch them all, but I did watch some of the Pas des Deux and Individuals. To me the biggest surprise was the young vaulter from Mauritius, Lambert Leclezio. I had seen him at the Jr European Championships and was already very impressed. Technically he’s in a very good path and he trusts himself enough to do complicated exercises. Also the Canadian pair (Brooke Boyd and Todd Griffiths) surprised me with the organization and the cool energy they conveyed.

  1. Is your team always focused or do you also have fun and do stupid things?

Not always. Of course we are mostly concentrated during training, it has to be that way. But we still have fun doing it. Also, we frequently play some games during warm up.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit of how was the whole WEG experience for you? How were the moments just before that last freestyle? How did you feel and what did you talk about? Even during the big presentation, do you think at all? Do you usually talk a lot on the horse?

The last day was, for me, really special. It was really long, but passed by, to my taste, very quickly. In the morning we had practice, and around noon we were back at the hotel to rest for a bit. In the afternoon we were able to watch the other German vaulters , until it was our time to get ready. We were 25 minutes early at the warm up ring, changing, warming up and concentrating. We did a little a bit of waiting then preparation. We sang our favorite songs out loud and told some jokes in order to calm down. I’m not sure how it was for the others, but all I wanted was to go in (excited in a positive way). Once we placed ourselves we were so focused I didn’t realize the French team was at the Kiss-and-cry-area.

We don’t really think when you’re out there  (thinking is what we do during practice and in the warm up ring) at the moment it starts it has to be done you cannot overthink it

We talk very little on the horse. For some exercises it is necessary to give commands (eg. At Mona’s jump during the last part), but for the rest it goes mostly with the song.

  1. Which exercise of Freestyle was the hardest to learn? Did you fell off the horse a lot?

Because I had so many hard exercises this year, I can’t really say which one was the toughest. The transition with Janika was kind of uncomfortable because I rarely carry someone so freely (without anyone on the neck).

I’ve fallen only 4-5 times at the very beginning of practices (not anything dramatic), otherwise not really.

  1. What were the biggest sacrifices you had to make to get where you are today?

Since it is a very costly and expensive sport, money has always been a problem. Thereby it had to be cut from some stuff like Vacations (shopping and other free time activities had to be spared as well). But until now it hasn’t been a big problem for me. The sport gave me many special moments and experiences that money couldn’t get me.

  1. How would you describe your flyer, Mona Pavetic?

Mona is very talented and active/energetic girl. She needs to be reminded of the corrections often, but once she gets it together on her head, she vaults at the same level as the older ones, which is very impressive. She enjoys telling jokes and likes to take care of the horse.

  1. Do you have tips for vaulters from other countries?

It is hard to give tips to such a vast group of vaulters. One that I can give for sure is that every success, independent on how big, stars with the basics. I’ve seen many vaulters that build something incredible on the wooden horse (which is easier because it stays still), but then once they go on the horse it goes all sloppy. Most of the time this happens is due to lack of basic/general fitness. Vaulting requires a relatively high fitness preparation. Therefore endurance, strength, stability and stretching should be improved beforehand in order to achieve a better performance. And this does not only apply to the athlete, but to the horse as well.

  1. Do you ever doubt yourself?

I rarely doubt myself, and when it happens it doesn’t last long. Quote from Antje Hill: “ Thoughts are like clouds, they come… and go away” “don’t allow yourself to be controlled by bad thoughts or insecurities. If they come, let they come, they’ll go away anyways”

In my opinion, vaulting only works if you have self-confidence. When you find yourself spinning your Flyer around during the freestyle, you have to be 100% sure of what you are doing.  If you start to think about something else, or to have doubts, it will certainly go wrong.  Not fearing, and relying on your own and your team’s ability counts the most.


I am a 27 years old psychologist from Brazil, although I have graduated in psychology I work with media and communications, with a focus on data analysis. I am currently heading towards a master's degree at the London School of Economics (LSE). I am not vaulting anymore, but I did for over 10 years. As it very often happens in our sport, I never really left, I taught at a social project for a few years and have been working on VN since 2014.

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