“Who is this boy and where did he come from?” That’s what I thought after his compulsories during the first day of the first ever World Championships for Jrs last week. I didn’t really see it coming, and I am guessing that you didn’t either.
But now that he is back home, at a small village near Bogotá, with the golden medal hanging around his neck, we are all dying to know more about Juan Martin Clavijo, the young boy from Colombia who gave South America it’s first ever medal at a major vaulting championships (hurrah South America!) and about whom we’ll still hear a lot about in the future.
Well, you guys sent us questions and we’ve added a few ourselves and he answered them all. I have to say that talking to Juan Martin was a real pleasure he is very polite and receptive. I would also like to point out that I did the whole interview in spanish and translated the answers myself (hurrah Celina) and he also taught me a few lessons.
Here it goes and I hope you enjoy it:
- Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you start to vault? And how is your day to day life in Colombia?
When I was five year old, my parents took me to a horse school that was close to my house. They didn’t know it was vaulting, but my sister and I liked it very much, so we started practicing and have been since then.
I wake up at around 6:15AM and go to school, my mother takes me every morning, I stay in school from 7:10AM until 3PM. After classes I usually go to practice or I go straight home. If I go to practice, I get home around 6:30PM, if I go home, I usually study or stay at the compute and spend time with mi gata [in Spanish mi gata can mean “my girlfriend” or “my cat” let’s just leave it at that and you can confirm the information with Juan if you ever meet him in person].
- Tell us a little bit about your training life and your practice. How many times do you practice, do you work on gymnastics as well as vaulting?
I practice four times a week, during weekdays I practice from 4PM to 6:30 and on Saturdays from 8:30 to 12PM. The first part of our practice is physical and technical preparation (on the floor or at the barrel) after that we have horse practice and we talk about our mistakes. I also do a little bit of gymnastics, not always, but it’s important to help me with vaulting.
- How was the road to the World Championships? When did you arrive in Europe and how was your stay? Were you by yourself or did your parents or your coach travel with you?
I left Bogotá in July 18th on a 11 hour flight directly to Paris and then I took the train to Le Mans and stayed at the Novotel Hotel, that was 15 minutes away from the Pole Européen du Cheval (Boulerie Jump) that was when I was training. Both my parents and my teacher were with me.
- How was your whole championships experience? Did you make new friends? Were you nervous for the competitions?
It was an incredible and surprising experience, it was good for me to see vaulting from other countries and the championships were very cool. Apart from that, it was way better than I expected and it was very exciting. Obviously I was very nervous before the competition, but I think I am kinda good at controlling my emotions and the results from the first day made me calmer.
I made new friends at the place we stayed before, I was practicing with Jacques [Ferrari] and the team from [Compagnie] Noroc, I also met other people who were training there (at the Pole Européen du Cheval club).
- How was it to practice with Jacques Ferrari?
Training with Jacques was incredible, I was very fortunate to have been able to do so. I really liked it and it was a great opportunity. I learned a lot and had lots of fun. Jacques helped me with my compulsories and my freestyle and gave me advices that were very important during the competition. I am very thankful to him.
- Do you have your own horse in Colombia? How was it to change horses and adapt to a whole new world?
I don’t have my own horse, my coach has 4 horses that we use for practice.
It wasn’t that hard to adapt, Quiece is an excellent horse and, although I only stayed in Europe for two weeks, I already knew him because last year we spent 3 weeks with Sandra Tronchet and her horses [practicing for the WEGs with the team from Colombia]. I actually really enjoy riding other horses, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.
- You weren’t part of the big European competitions as an individual so we didn’t see it coming and seeing you in Ermelo was a big surprise. How does it feel to go back home and now everyone knows your name and recognizes your talent?
I’m feeling great. I am very happy that people recognize me and I am very proud of myself.
- What are your plans now that the championships are done? Are you already thinking about Le Mans?
I would like to go to other international competitions, but it’s expensive and it’s very hard to organize everything. I would like to go to the World Championships next year, and will see if I can organize it, but, up to now, the only thing I know is that I would very much like to be there.
- How is the reception of your friends and family back home? Are they proud to have a world champion in the family?
For my Family it was very exciting news, they feel very proud of my dedication towards the sport. For my friends it was kind of amazing, they were very impressed, and that makes me happy.
10. Who are your heroes, your role models within the sport?
The vaulters from Team Lütisburg [from Switzerland] are my heroes, they inspire me to be my best. I always watch their videos to get better, I like it that they have a very professional style and a really hard horse. I also like Erik Oese, because he is very original. Another great inspiration is Devon Maitozo; He has been an unconditional support throughout my growth as a vaulter and also throughout my team’s.
My team mates have always been really supportive, therefore they mean a lot to me as well.
Thank you so much for answering our questions Juan! And congratulations on your victory! Muchas Gracias!