Brazil: On the road to Le Mans

This post was written by Celina and Charlotte together.

The Brazilian vaulting squad is back on the game for the World Championships, that will happen in Le Mans in August of 2016. The Brazilian Federation for Equestrian Sports has put together a group of young, but very experienced, athletes that are being trained by some of the best international vaulting coaches in the World. For this year the strategy is to have a squad of vaulters trained by a squad of top coaches, such as Patrick Looser, Agner Werham, Torben Jacobs, Pauline Riedl and more. We have talked to Maria Luiza Giugni, Brazilian Chef d’Equipe, and Nicolas Martinez, member of the team, to learn about how this project is going.

Maria Luiza, Malu, Giugni was a member of the team until she had to drop the sport to develop her career as an architect, today she has the task of helping the athletes and organizing both the national Jr and Sr teams. Nicolas has been part of the main squad since 2006 and, although he quit the sport for 5 years since the WEGs in Kentucky, 2010, he is now back with the team training for Le Mans. (You might remember him from our 10 year Retrospective interviews from January 2016.)

Here is what they told us:

What are the plans for the preparation of the Brazilian Squad for the World Championships in Le Mans?

Malu: For this year we decided to organize training in a different way. I talked to Agnes Werhahn from Neuss and she helped me pull together a group of the best vaulters in the world to help us with our training. We decided that was best to have people working in the same “vaulting line”, so we arranged with vaulters and trainers from Neuss and Köln. First we had Patric Looser, then Pauline Riedl, then Aggi herself, now Antje Hill. For March, Torben Jacobs will be here and in May, Katharina Steinberg (Neuss Jr team coach).

On the end of July we’ll travel to Germany to continue our preparation for the World Championships. We’ll stay in Köln for trainings. We have a horse there, Echt Stark, he’s recently competed with Thommy Brüsewitz in the FEI World Cup. Patti has been helping us with the horse, he has done a terrific job! We can’t thank him enough.

[For those of you who are new to this surroundings, Agnes Werhahn is a long time coach from Team Neuss, in Germany. She is supposedly one of the minds behind their World Titles in 2006 and 2014. Agnes was a vaulter in the 90s, always representing Neuss and winning several major titles. This is not the first time she is working with the Brazilian team: She was their official foreign coach from 2006 to 2008.]

How is the team doing in the meantime? How is practice going and how are you dealing with the preparation?

Nicolas: The group is relatively new, at least in what concerns the time we’ve been working together because most of the athletes have been to World Championships and World Equestrian Games before. But we’ve had several changes since 2014, as do every team. I am actually an example of that: I wasn’t vaulting for the past five years, and I came back to practice a year ago.
Like I said, most of the team members have already been in at least one big championship, which helps because we won’t suffer with that feeling of going to your first international competition and feeling nervous about it, we are very motivated and running after the lost time. The problem is that we can only practice during the weekends, other teams have been together longer and practice more times during week days, but the girls go to school and some of them live far from the place where we practice, so weekends are all we get. We know we are a little bit behind, so we try to work out with that as best as we can. We end up spending the whole weekend together. Another problem is the horse, as usual, our horses here in Brazil are not as good as those we’ll get in Europe. But we have the goal of representing Brazil in another international competition and, you can be sure of that, we’ll do whatever we can to bring home the best possible results.

How is the team seeing this experience of receiving so many international coaches to help with the WC preparations?

Nicolas: I think it’s a great solution. And it’s going to be very important for us when we are there. We cannot go to Europe all the time, so it’s easier to put coaches on a plane and bring them over. People are enchanted by Brazil, they always want to come back so we end up creating a connection with these people. At least when we chat with them, we all see with good eyes this Vaulting Exchange.

 The team is a mix of young and older vaulters, with the help of Agnes Werham they expect to achieve a good result in Le Mans.
The team is a mix of young and older vaulters, with the help of Agnes Werhahn they expect to achieve a good result in Le Mans.


That must be very exciting, particularly for the younger vaulters in the team.

Nicolas: Every team has a mix of older and younger vaulters, in our case we have 9 athletes in the group, 3 are older than 18 years old, the rest are younger than 15. There is a huge age gap between us. But that was never a problem for us, we are one big family. All those who vault know of the importance of having this family like harmony among team mates.

From speaking to them [young vaulters] I have a feeling that they all know and understand their responsibilities and what it means to go through this experience. Of course we are all in this to have fun, but the difference is that now having fun became kind of a job: We have to go and show the sport to the world. So it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, we are all in this fully and we all have to open up a lot of things. In their age that is very important, they know that they could be doing something else, but they are vaulting.

Does the Brazilian Federation you have a plan to cover the training and travel expenses financially, such as a Crowd Sourcing or governmental help?

Malu: This year we are organizing a partnership with our government. There’s a project to encourage sports here in Brazil. It is called “lei de incentivo ao esporte”. They turn some companies taxes into money for team’s sports. Everything should be confirmed in February! We’re very excited to have this kind of help! Before the vaulter’s parents had to pay for everything.

They want to bring a good result back home, but for the Brazilian squad it doesn’t hurt to have fun along the way.

How is the team dealing with the pressure of training? Are you nervous to the competition?

Nicolas: I think the team is growing together after each practice. Of course, as I mentioned before, we are running after lost time, but we try to use each practice and make the time we have count. When we put this team together we were already late but we thought: we still have one year and a half. Today we only have 7 months and 7 months in the horse world goes by really fast of course we are very confident, we all think we’ve come a long way.
Each time we go into a big competition is different, each time we line up to enter the ring the emotion speaks higher, but we wanna be as well prepared as possible because we know that we’ll be representing a country  that has grew a lot in this sport throughout the past 15 years. In 2000 we were the 15º place in the World championships in Mannheim, and in Kentucky we were the 6º best team.

 The team that will represent Brazil in Le Mans has it's roots in the team from the WEGs in Caen, back in 2014. But now with more experience.
The team that will represent Brazil in Le Mans has it’s roots in the team from the WEGs in Caen, back in 2014. But now with more experience.

How does this project and investment fit into a plan to develop the sport in the country as a whole?

Malu: This year we started a junior team here as well. Our intention is to start training more and more vaulters to be in our senior team someday! Our plan is to continue working that way for the next years so we can start walking with our own two feet! We’ll have the help from our European fellows but we have to work by ourselves too. Aggi made a very solid plan for us, and so far it has been working really good!

At the moment we have 3 clubs in the official competition circle, all of them in São Paulo. There are also 4 certified judges. The goal is to develop and increase these numbers, for that we organize clinics and recreational activities with national and international coaches. In September we had an open clinic with Patric Looser for every vaulter from clubs that are part of the national equestrian federation (CBH). For the judging end, we have a partnership with other countries in South America, in April Rob de Bruin, international judge from The Netherlands, is coming to Argentina for a FEI judging course and the idea is taking our judges for a recycling and also taking more people interested in specializing in vaulting. Yanina Alvarez, the coordinator of our FEI group has been essential to this process and we thank her very much.

For the individuals the plan is pretty much the same. We try to crate space for athletes who are interested in developing their individual skills on our clinics and courses. We have a Brazilian Athlete living in France that is planning on competing as a Jr, Sanae Lis, she works with Danièle Nousse, sister of French vaulter Ivan Nousse. To us is important to have Brazilian vaulters representing the country in both national and international competitions.

How do you see the growth of the sport in South America? It seems like you are working together for the sport. Are you guys going to the CVI Buenos Aires? (That will happen in 2016 for the first time in history).

Malu: I think that yes, we are growing and developing the sport step by step in South America, and I think that we’ll grow even more. We need to support each other and strengthen the group so that we can increase the quality of South American Vaulting. We will be on the CVI Buenos Aires to practice and participate on an international competition prior to the World Championships.


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.