Yes, my friends, it’s been ten years. TEN YEARS.
Ten years since what, one might ask? Since vaulting as we know it exists, one might answer.
To celebrate that, we have put together what might have been one of our most ambitious projects ever: A retrospective of the last decade.
We sent questions to over 20 people, and 7 of them actually answered, who were already here in 2006 and are still active today. And what we want to know from them is: What has changed and what is going to happen in the future of our sport? Not an easy question, but we do have some interesting testimonials to share with you today.
Before we start, a brief remark: Instead of telling you everything that happened in those ten years, we have chosen to tell the story from the perspective of those who were part of it. It would not be possible to include everyone and every moment.
Are you ready? So pack up your bags and let’s go back in time…
2006: The Force Awakens
The World Equestrian Games in 2006 was a game changer for the vaulting community. But not only because of the difficulty or technical level. It was also the first one where we could find pictures of the competition online, it was the first big competition of the Social Networks and it was the first world championships covered by Marc Schuirmann. If you were around by then, you might remember that Marc was the enlightened soul who would post all the videos from major CVIs online, feeding us, vaulting fans from around the globe, with vaulting entertainment. It was the seed that created our online vaulting tradition.
Well, if you remember Aachen, you might also remember the day an Austrian team decided to put a flyer standing on a guy’s head. That flyer was Isabel Fiala, the same one who is now running the World Cup, the base was Nikolaus Luschin, and that moment was a historic one.
In 2006 Wildegg set the bar higher. They might have ended up on the third position, but that was downright historic:
- Technically that level of vaulting had never been seen before, and artistically it was pretty much one of the first themed presentations ever.
- It was the first year vaulting music could have singing lyrics, and they used that very well with their Cirque du Soleil theme.
- It was the first time team members could have different catsuits (white flyer, golden flyer, green flyer, I will NEVER forget that).
Brazilian vaulter Nicolas Martinez was in Aachen as well and also mentioned that competition as one of his favorite memories, and why wouldn’t him? He was part of the Brazilian team who won the 8th place at the Games and remembers the feeling of the German crowd, ever so German, cheering for Brazilians they had never seen before.
Another team that impressed the Germans in Aachen was the American squad, FAME Vaulters. They ended up with the silver medal, a very important result in the evolution of American sport. Blake Dahlgren was part of that team. The American presentation was also very important that year. FAME introduced us to a very remarkable style, very different from both Austrians and Germans, with almost as many doubles as triples, they were actually dancing on the horse.
Well, Austria got bronze, USA got silver and the golden medal went to the owners of the house. Marc Schuirmann mentions the moment Team Neuss and Kai Vorberg won the golden medal as one of the most emotional moments of his career. Interestingly enough, 2016 will be the first time that we won’t have golden members from the 2006 generation as part of Team Neuss.
“My best memories were the WEG 2006 in Aachen, when Neuss and Kai won their Gold Medals. It was very emotional and I was with my camera very close to the infield and felt the positive emotions of the 6000 people watching, when Kai got crazy and ran through the arena… and when Team Neuss was in Kiss&Cry and got their scores.
These moments I will never forget.”
Funny thing is that there was someone in Aachen that you might not actually remember: Anna Cavallaro. She 20 years old and placed 13th that year.
2007: The Vampire Menace
Kaposvar, Hungary. The European Championships that continued the vaulting project created in 2006.
For Nikolaus Luschin that was also a very special moment. The Austrian squad brought one of their most interesting themes up to today: Perfume, the Story of a Murderer. And finished the competition with a silver medal.
Speaking of historic freestyles, we cannot think of vaulting as we know it without mentioning the German vaulting club Ingelsberg. If you need to know a little bit more of German vaulting history you can check out our wiki, but what really matters is that the main team from Ingelsberg actually performed one of the first themed freestyles ever: The “Tanz der Vampire” (or Dance of the Vampires) project started before 2006, but in the EM of 2007, they had the opportunity to bring it to the main arena representing Germany in Hungary and went back home with the golden medal.
We have talked to Regina Burgmayr, who was already part of the team from Ingelsberg who won the world medal in 2004 and is still part of the team today, about the whole themed vaulting thing. This is what she told us:
“We all went through the “theme vaulting” phase, but I think we came up from this the last two years. “Glad” is not the right word to describe [the vampire phase], it was an amazing time embodying a special character or figure but it’s getting more and more difficult to find good themes, which have the possibility to switch in special characters and to that everybody, especially the judges, understand. The first question each new season is “what’s your theme?” but I ask myself or all of you: Does a freestyle really needs a topic to be good? I don’t think so, there’s much more to fulfill to create a good new freestyle.”
2008: The Return of the Brazilian
In 2008 the vaulting world went to Brno. A very special moment. As I recall it was the first competition I have ever watched at a Live Stream, which is a big change in the way vaulting fans relate to the sport.
Brno was mentioned in the memories of both Regina and Nicolas Martinez. The first went home with another team golden medal, the second got one step closer and an even better result for the Brazilian vaulting history.
For a year and a half prior to Brno, Nicolas lived and breathed vaulting. He was training in Neuss, Germany, and practicing with those he calls “the best coaches and vaulters in the world”. The results came in Czech Republic, when he managed to get the 11º position in the competition (the best result a South American Senior Vaulter had ever gotten). You might find it strange that we are talking about Brazil next to a few of the greatest vaulters in the world. But, if you think about it, one thing that has changed in the past ten years is the fact that new countries are getting stronger.
Nicolas gave us a very emotional testimonial about what it means to be a “non-European” vaulter. For one year he had to give up all his life to train and participate on championships in Europe. He missed his family and friends but, in the end, everything was worth it.
If you think about it, in 2015 the life of none European vaulters is not at all better.
2009: FEI Strikes Back
I am going to be true to you, now. No one really mentioned 2009. But I will.
If you try to watch the Europeans from 2009, you won’t be able to do so. And that’s very unfortunate. What happens is that in 2009 FEI TV appeared in the scene of vaulting communications. I remember being able to watch it in high resolution, but having to pay for it.
2010: The Revenge of the Americans
This seems to have been another very important year for vaulting history and also for our friends who were interviewed for this piece.
In 2010, Anna Cavallaro met someone who, according to her, would change vaulting forever: Harley, her horse…
“In these 10 years my best memories start from 2010 when I started to compete with HARLEY. …The best horse. …. MY HORSE!”
2010 was also the year vaulting went to America. Yep, everyone crossed the Atlantic to visit the New Continent. Nicolas Martinez mentions this moment as an important one, because everyone learned a little bit about the struggles of those who do that every year, like himself.
The Brazilian team had a hard time in the WEGs in Kentucky, a little bit of trouble with the horse, their flyer got hurt, but, after the 8th place in Aachen, the 9th place in Brno, everyone was expecting to see what they would bring. And they didn’t disappoint: The Brazilian Squad got a 6th place. And Nicolas still holds that as one of his most precious memories.
You know who else was in Kentucky? Regina Burgmayr. Ingelsberg was representing Germany in the USA, and she also holds that experience as one of the best. But, as she wisely appoints, apart from all the competitions, the most important memories are the friendships she has cultivated.
It wouldn’t be possible to talk about 2010 without mentioning the American squad. The long aspired golden medal finally came in Kentucky. We can probably say the “Project Golden Medal” started way before 2010 in the mind of their coach and vaulter, Devon Maitozo. Some of the golden members were still the same that got the silver medal in 2006 and the style was also very similar: Dance on horses. But they were at home, with their favorite horse, in the perfect moment.
Blake was part of that team and, to him, that was, obviously, one of the top moments:
“Standing on the podiums are the greatest memories I can think of over my last ten years of vaulting. It has been a proudest moment and validation for the hard work and dedication I have put into the sport as well as an accomplishment I can take with me for the rest of my life.”
After 2010, something very interesting happened: We have found very few memories.
2011/2012: The Attack of the PDD
I am sure we all remember it, right? Who can forget Le Mans, to where we are actually going back to in 2016 for the World Championships.
Regina Burgmayr competed individually in 2012, so for her this was pretty important, Anna was also there and she ended up with a 6th place.
In 2012 we also had something pretty important happening: Pas des Deux.
It was the first time the category would be featured in the World Championships and Blake was there, winning the bronze medal together with his long time friend, and also individual world medalist in Aachen, Megan Benjamin. It was pretty amazing to see all these great vaulters innovating for pdd performances.
2013: A New Hope
In 2013 we met Vaulting News. Which might not really seem like much to you but, if you think about it, it does means a lot for our community. It means that vaulting fans were starting to organize themselves, and share information. It means that we want to learn more, we want to be more present.
Back in 2006, we only had Marc Schuirmann with his wonderful videos. But today, everyone posts videos on youtube. As Marc puts it, in the past if you posted a video everyone was happy. Today, people are mad if the competition doesn’t have a livestream.
For the 2013/2014 season, we also learned about something new: The World Cup. Edit on January 20, 2016: In 2013 / 2014 the World Cup was allready in its FOURTH season, but it was the winter when it became popular.
What was already a tradition in other equestrian disciplines started being a part of the vaulting calendar. And its
first fourth winner was Anna Cavallaro. Anna put Italy on the top of the podium, proving once again there is vaulting outside the German countries. Being there with Harley and Nelson, her lunger and trainer, seems to be one of her best memories.
2014: The Vaulting Wars
Well, 2014 wasn’t featured on our friend’s favorite memories, but it was featured in mine. It was the year we at VN did the live coverage of the World Equestrian Games. I would wake up every day at 4 in the morning and post about every single presentation I saw. What a rush. It was so exciting to watch the battle between Nicolas and Jacques, Team Neuss was so amazing. That was, for sure the year where vaulting took up to the skies.
2015: The Fellowship of the Horse
Well, 2015 was the year of the jrs. It was also the year that proved our community is growing stronger and stronger. A young Colombian boy won the first ever World Championships for Jrs, putting South America back on the Vaulting Map.
We learned from vaulting in Israel, in the Canary Islands, we learned of new ways our sport is touching and helping lives of disabled kids, we have learned of young vaulters travelling the world and teaching in small clubs for food and lodging.
And that’s just the beginning.
In 2015, this vaulting video has reached over 1 milion views on Facebook.
And that’s just the beginning.
2026: The future…
Now, we have asked our friends Nicolas, Marc, Regina, Nikolaus, Blake and Anna what has changed and what we can expect for the next decade. Here are a few regards:
- Both Marc and Nicolas mentioned that vaulting is getting more professional. We have better horses, better trainers, the judges are more critical over what they judge. Vaulters have to train more and more each time.
- The community and the way we relate to the media has also changed. On the worlds of an expert:
“The sport also made remarkable changes in its Media Appearance, which changed also the community a lot. 10 years ago the vaulters and fans were happy about every small photo, every text in newspapers, every small videoclip about our sports. Becoming more and more public in the Media, vaulting community is expecting more today… Today the vaulting community is even disappointed when there is no livestream of a competition”
- Vaulting is also reaching new places. Nicolas Martinez mentions the importance of CVI Doha and the fact that we had CVI São Paulo back in 2007 and 2008. It might be interesting to point out that, until 2006 Devon Maitozo was the only non-European vaulter to have ever won a major championship. As we clearly saw in this retrospective, that is obviously changing. New countries are arriving and they are very welcome.
- Technique X Art : We also had a very interesting discussion in what concerns the future of the sport from the technical point of view. Everyone agrees that the sport is more and more technical and reaching new levels of difficulty. But not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the future of this movement. On the words of Anna Cavallaro, the evolution of vaulting was actually a revolution. Nicolas Martinez actually thinks there is a lot more to come, Nikolaus Luschin, on the other hand, actually believes we have reached the peak: There is nowhere else to go.
On the words of Blake Dahlgren:
“I see vaulting continuing its upward progression. In the last 10 years many of the hard moves have now become the easy standard ones and the standard of performance has become what we aspired to back in the year 2000. I am excited to see what’s to come. In 10 years I expect the horse quality to become even better which would allow for more progression on and off the horse.”
Well, I think we have many topics to think about in what concerns the future of our sport. As of 2016, we can only hope to see great vaulting.
- I expect Anna will be fighting for the golden medal in Le Mans, and she actually has all the cards necessary to win.
- Hopefully Regina Burgmayr will be with T1 from Ingelsberg fighting to represent Germany in the Worlds, and we might actually see a little bit more of her individuals in 2016.
- Nicolas Martinez will be representing Brazil once again with the Brazilian squad.
- Marc will hopefully be bringing us high quality videos and I actually count on that to spend my free time this year.
- Blake is currently doing a great work as a coach in the USA, his horse was chosen the best one of 2015 in his region and he is currently training a few top individuals and working as a clinician all around the country.
- Correcting the previous information: Nikolaus Luschin will still be vaulting in 2016, but probably not in 2026.
Wildegg’s Cirque du Soleil presentation in 2006 was absolutely historic, it changed everything forever. It actually changed my life in many ways. Neuss might have won that one, and they did very well indeed, but it was Wildegg who stood for history in Aachen.
And that’s how I finish this post. Going back to where we started. Aachen, 2006. A video from Marc Schuirmann.
Edit January 20, 2016: Even that we implemented a security system this year, which means that 2 or 3 people correct every post, we still make mistakes. We apologize for this & are very thankful when you correct us. So, we go back to school & promise to improve our work.