Another year has gone by and we are here left to summon up everything that went right or wrong along the past 12 years.
You might have seen, right below this post, that we are currently running polls to decide who were the best vaulters of 2014. Just a brief regard before we start the analysis of the results: We already know who the best vaulters of 2014 were. I remember saying this right after the WEGs, that we got to a level that the difference between the golden medal and the bronze one is basically just a matter of opinion. So everyone nominated for the poll are already winners in different ways. We didn’t nominate only golden vaulters, we tried to pick people who were outstanding in their own way. That’s why we put Baláz Bence against Jacques Ferrari: because, even though one is a junior and the other is a senior, we recognize that they are both outstanding athletes who contribute to the evolution of the sport.
Now I am gonna try and sum up the results.
2014 has a name and a face concerning male vaulters. This name is Jacques Ferrari.
He’s been on the spotlight since day one, and, in my opinion, that’s a rightful spot. He is not only a creative vaulter, he is very expressive and took the mix between sport and art to a whole new level. But we have to agree that for some people, me included, his “The Flight” freestyle can start off a little bit strange at first. A little bit too different maybe. But the French vaulter grew to perform amazing vaulting with remarkable technique. So maybe you don’t like his style, but we have to agree, that he is a great vaulter indeed.
Now, that I stated all these nice things about Jacques Ferrari, let’s just think about what he represents. Jacques didn’t win our poll for best vaulter. No, curiously we saw something a little bit unexpected but very meaningful. The winner was Baláz Bence, the young Jr European Champion from Hungary. They have a lot in common though. Both are expressive vaulters who invest in theatrical presentations. But Bence is the future. He is a name we are all waiting to hear and we will sure get to know him better on the following years. They represent a group of athletes who are using the sport as a form of expression, not just a stage for technical performances.
I could also say that both of them are from countries with less vaulting tradition, but, if we think about it, France is, more and more, consolidating as a kind of vaulting power, mainly because of male vaulters; starting with great Matthias Lang, going through amazing Nicolas Andreani and now with Jacques. (remembering that they now also have a medal winning team, composed of mainly male vaulters.) (Nicolas… I could spend hours talking about his performances in 2014 as well… Just remembering Caen gives me chills… just unbelievable, but I am not going to because I’ve got a poll to follow.)
Jacques also wasn’t the second place on our poll, actually he was only the third. Second place was Viktor Brüsewitz. What can we say about Brüsewitz? No need to mention that Germany is the most traditional vaulting power in the world. That doesn’t mean that they are trendsetters, on the contrary. But right now, Viktor represents new winds in Deutschland. “Tradition” has nothing to do with the young german’s vaulting. He is fresh, new and so very charismatic. So, if our polls show a tendency for pointing to change, Viktor is representing the germans in this new wave we have seen stronger than ever in 2014.
In both Polls we saw a very interesting padron. People seem to be voting for fresh vaulters. They don’t want tradition, they seem to want expressiveness.
Right after the WEGs I made a similar review stating that for women the competition seemed to be more technical, while, for men, the dramatic interpretations ruled the year. But that doesn’t mean that women did worse in 2014. Nononono. We have seen change amongst the women as well, and our poll shows that very clearly. For men, we had Baláz on the lead, followed by Viktor and Jacques. Three of the most revolutionary vaulters we’ve ever seen. For the ladies we also saw 3 outstanding figures on top of the list: The first place went to Lisa Wild, followed by Kristina Boe and Rikke Laumann. Now, those results might seem a little bit crazy at first, but I will try and explain them to you.
Lisa Wild. Maybe not the most expressive vaulter we saw this year (that person was clearly Kristina). Actually, Lisa is not quite expressive at all. But she is, in her way, really revolutionary and very fresh. Lisa is a trend setter, and her freestyle is very hard and made basically of original moves. So, following the trend amongst female towards more technical presentations, she is original and has a unique style. Although we didn’t see her during WEGs, Lisa has been to most world cup legs.
Kristina Boe came second, representing the dramatic athletes. The fight for the first place was a very tough one and, although Lisa came first Kristina did so very good. She was pretty much the only lady who tried to make a more theatrical presentation at WEGs, and she did so good with her impersonation of Bellatrix Lestrange. Kristina is another fresh athlete and also represents the wind of change coming from Germany.
Rikke Laumann. If the trend was voting for revolutionary and fresh vaulters, why did Rikke Laumann appear amongst the top ladies on the poll? Well, the internet has it’s mysteries, but I do see some sense here. Another thing I said right after Caen was that Rikke would be forever remembered in vaulting history. Well, I think she is here because she basically pulled off one of the best compulsories set we’ve ever seen (that happened on the first day of the World Equestrian Games). As simple as that. The fans are once again recognizing the value of the Danish athlete and the importance of technique and tradition for the evolution of sport.
Why wasn’t Joanne on the top 3? That’s a little bit strange. The same way we all new Jacques would win the WEGs, it was clear that Joey would get the golden medal for the ladies. I think our voters were really looking for fresh blood, and, although Joanne takes female vaulting to a level of technical difficulty and perfection never seen before, she’s been around for quite a long time now and maybe, just maybe, people decided to vote for outstanding new people instead of golden british girl. We all know and cherish Joey’s vaulting. As a woman, I would like to say that women can vault as good as men and can be as strong as men, and Joanne proves that better than anyone else. She is also a vaulter that’s always creating and challenging herself to do more, risk more and get better, that’s very inspiring.
There was a time where most women couldn’t even hit a swing on the handstands. Today, hitting the handstands is basically a rule. With proper training and less limits, women are growing to reach new technical standards every year. There goes the time when “men were strong and women were flexible”.
This was 2014: A mixture of tradition and creativity. Vaulting is evolving more and more each year. Athletes are recognizing the opportunities of the sport as a venue for artistic expression and new ways to break barriers and limits of the human body. Men and Women are changing the sport and proving that humans are made to break beyond the edge of possibilities.
Now, just to wrap things up. I don’t think that the horse should become just a stage for theatrical presentations. But I also don’t think that’s what’s happening. Yes vaulters are investing in themed presentations, but the level of difficulty is also very high and that was very clear this year, since all the winners scored a 9 on the last day of WEGs.
I wish I could have talked about more people, but, unfortunately, we don’t have infinite reading abilities. Just to mention other vaulters, here are those missing: Nicolas Andreani, Erik Oese and Lambert Leclezio for the boys, Simone Jäiser, Anna Cavallaro and Corinna Knauf should also be remembered for having had a wonderful 2014, regarding vaulting.