Across the past few weeks there have been several discussions on the blog and on Facebook about changes happening to the vaulting rulebook conserning the tech tests and other aspects. Truth be told vaulting is growing and spreading across the globe, we now have vaulting on every continent and that’s so very cool. But the sport remains being a little bit eurocentric, concerning competitions, rankings and investments. We’ve decided to talk to one of USA’s bright new vaulters, young Kristian Roberts. I remember being amazed by how calmly he vaulted during the WEGs and we will hear more of him the following years, that’s for sure.
But for now we stay with his testimonial of what it means to be an american vaulter competing in Europe. He also told us, first hand, that his pas des deux freestyle actually came from a dream. Check it out:
1.Tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you start vaulting? How was your road to the World Equestrian Games?
Hi! My name is Kristian Roberts and I’m 21 years old, from Moss Beach, California. I vault with Pacific Coast Vaulters
I got started in vaulting during my career as a gymnast (age 6-18) way back in 2005 when I was just 12 years old. The Palmer sisters and their brother Colton (who was a WEG alternate this year) and I all went to the same gym; after practice one night they asked me if I wanted to come out to their place and try vaulting. I had known them a long time already but never knew about this sport! I went out and tried it and had a great time so I began competing in beginner classes, gradually working my way up to the Gold level in 2009 just four years later.
The road to WEG 2014 was a wonderful experience as well as an enormous challenge. The adventure started in August of 2013 after the National Championships, when I began training at Pacific Coast to work on a pas de deux routine with my coach Mary Garrett, who is a 2010 team gold medalist. Having never tried pairs before while also hoping to make it to WEG was a huge undertaking but one that I was willing to put everything I had into.
“The road to WEG 2014 was a wonderful experience as well as an enormous challenge. The adventure started in August of 2013 after the National Championships, when I began training at Pacific Coast to work on a pas de deux routine with my coach Mary Garrett, who is a 2010 team gold medalist”
2. Kimberly and Cassidy Palmer told us the other day that you had a lot of competition during the trials for making to Team USA. How much of a priority was pas des deux for you and Mary this season? And how was this trial process? How did you manage to fix a calendar that mixed competitions in Europe and in the USA?
Pas de deux was pretty much given #1 priority after around December 2013, we didn’t have much time until the trials and needed to get a lot of work done! Going into the selection trials in march, we really had no idea what we were going to score since our routine was unlike many others. Being roughly the same size as your partner creates unique benefits, and challenges. We realized that we couldn’t get some of the high flying lifts we’ve seen, but could amaze people in other ways through originality and beauty. After all, more than one move came from a dream!
What do you mean from a dream? Mary dreams about vaulting all the time. So a part of the freestyle came from her dreams!
There were about five or six other pas de deuxs all battling for those two coveted spots that would lead to WEG. We started out testing the waters in the first selection trial to see where we stood in terms of making it to WEG. After that, we went all out, training as hard as we could while also having to switch horses halfway through the season. During the summer went to our first CVI3* as a pas de deux in Chilliwack BC, Canada and earned the 7.0 score we needed to be eligible for WEG. By then we found ourselves in the number two spot following Cassidy and Kimberly, and we had made it to WEG! I had also been competing at these trials individually and earning all the scores I needed to secure first place throughout the year within the first three trials, so I could devote more time to pas de deux.
The calendar of trials this past summer was INSANE. During the nine competitions we attended, we traveled to Washington state, then down to southern California, then to Canada, followed by Germany for CHIO Aachen, back to Oregon for National Championships where we won pas de deux and individuals, then back to Germany AGAIN for more training before driving to France for WEG. I am slightly tired.
3. Being a non-european vaulter is not very easy if you wanna be amongst the top vaulters in the world. Borrowing horses when going to Europe is one of the big problems one can face in this position. Do you usually bring your horse along or do you borrow horses for each competition? What are other low or high points you can make out to being so far away from the center of everything?
Borrowing a horse in another country can be very intimidating! However through email and social media, my longer Carolyn was able to contact a friend and arrange things through her. It is very expensive to bring horses to Europe, so it is most common to borrow a horse in the host country. I suppose being far away makes traveling to competitions quite the adventure! Though the downside to this is it can be prohibitively expensive depending on where you need to go.
4.How do you see the growth of the sport in the USA? Did holding the WEGs in 2010, and actually getting a golden medal, helped the sport getting more recognition?
We absolutely got great press recognition for holding the games in 2010 and our win, however I feel like it mostly reached out to the people who were already interested in the sport, or other equestrian disciplines. I think the best way to cultivate interest in the sport is to have more active advertising, and possibly holding some promotional competitions at popular venues while charging a nominal fee. These could even be freestyle only for the sake of attracting spectators and fans.
“We absolutely got great press recognition for holding the games in 2010 and our win, however I feel like it mostly reached out to the people who were already interested in the sport, or other equestrian disciplines.”
5.Vaulting rule books are always changing. What kind of changes, in your opinion, could be made to help athletes outside Europe? What could be done to make the sport less euro-centric?
Rule wise, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to make the qualifying process any easier, however, more clinics or video lessons from top level European or American coaches and vaulters would greatly help our up and coming international vaulters. Especially those going for Junior Worlds next summer!
6.In the USA you don’t use the senior/jr category division. What are positive characteristics in using bronze/silver/gold or A/B/C or canter/trot?
The Junior and Senior divisions work well in large groups of athletes who are mostly the same skill level. Here at home we have such a wide range of levels and ages that having a junior or senior division would end up putting beginners against some of the best vaulters and I think as a growing sport, we’re probably not ready for that intensity of competition yet. Another reason being the cost of hosting competitions of that type goes up dramatically since they are FEI licensed.
“The Junior and Senior divisions work well in large groups of athletes who are mostly the same skill level. Here at home we have such a wide range of levels and ages that having a junior or senior division would end up putting beginners against some of the best vaulters.”
7.A big discussion has been going on around the growth amongst the jrs in the European circuit. In Brazil, we don’t have jr teams or vaulters, we have C teams open to people over and under 18 years old. In Germany they have both, C teams and jr (and more than enough vaulters to fill them all). How is this going in the USA? Woodside of Oz is actually an under 18 team and there is expectation they could maybe do very well next year at the jr world championships.
We do have some very talented Juniors along with Junior team, not nearly as many as Europe of course, but there is a lot of discussion about Junior WCs going on and people are very excited. Some of my close friends and teammates hope to qualify!
8.Do you think investing in the jr category could be a good way to help the sport?
Yes I think investing time into the US Juniors would be a way to fuel their enthusiasm like the sport did for me when I was 14 or 15. It will give them an opportunity to qualify for a huge international competition, while giving them the experience they need to compete well as Seniors at much bigger events such as WEG.