If you have been around for some time, you probably remember Gero Meyer. The German vaulter won silver medals at the 2000, 2002 and 2006 editions of the World Championships and WEG’s as well as winning the gold medal at the European Championships in 1999. He ended his career as an elite vaulter in 2011 but is still active as a trainer all over the world, trying to connect people and supporting our international vaulting community.
I wanted to talk with Gero Meyer about his summer camps but the interview turned out to be much more. Thank you!
Was it a difficult decision to retire as a vaulter?
For more than a quarter of a century, I have been active in the sport of vaulting. This sport has played a significant part in my life. It shaped my body and my soul and turned me into the person I am today. So yes, it was a very difficult decision not to continue on the active side of the sport. But I found another role in vaulting as a trainer and as an organizer of training camps. Check it out: www.gm-sports.eu.
What was it that kept you actively vaulting for such a long time?
I stayed with vaulting for many different reasons, depending on the phase of life I went through. When I was a little boy, the riding hall was a huge exciting playground and my very first vaulting coach, Maria Schlömer, from RuF Cloppenburg, made sure that I enjoyed vaulting by keeping the practices fun. Growing older, especially when entering my teenage years, there were certainly moments when I felt a lack of motivation. Especially when realizing that the “cool boys” at school weren’t wearing leggings for their sports. But with my first larger successes in this sport at the age of 15, my classmate’s and friend’s accepted it more and more. At that point, the sport had already completely drawn me in by offering exciting challenges every time I showed up for practice. At this time in my life, I also made the switch to RuF Friesoythe, where Jutta Schweigatz and Imke zur Brügge made sure that my constant desire for challenge to keep me motivated was fully met. Finally getting my driver’s license made getting to practices that much easier and tasting the sweetness of success was all that was needed to keep me motivated. After all, vaulting was already such a big part of my life and I could not imagine a better and more exciting sport in the whole wide world! But after I finished my apprenticeship as a carpenter I felt the need to break out and I went to New Zealand for one year. Trying to make a comeback after that wasn’t easy but as luck would have it, I found a wonderful new home in vaulting, the RV Großenritte with Susanne Wahl and Claudi Classen as trainer. They offered me the opportunity to work my way back to the top of the vaulting scene, so I did not mind taking the long train ride of 140 km one way multiple times per week. Of course, this was not always easy and took a lot of discipline on my end, but this team was awesome and kept me going. Participating in vaulting at this level meant giving up a lot of other things but in the end these sacrifices are all worthwhile, if such a strong team of supporters who share the love for the sport surrounds you. A great team behind you is worth its weight in gold! During this time I very much enjoyed the freedom to be able to incorporate all my hopes and dreams into my freestyle. My horse was my partner in crime! I considered him to be my “dance partner” and I loved asking him out for a dance during competitions. We truly experienced some magical moments together. For the first time, I fully enjoyed vaulting without the pressure of getting good scores. Simply enjoying vaulting became everything to me; getting good scores was a side benefit. After finishing up my studies in Hildesheim, I began working on my Ph.D. in Sweden. This put a distance of over 1400 km between my team and me. And even though I tried in the beginning, I soon realized that this distance was too much to overcome. In 2011 I made the difficult decision to end my active vaulting career.
What are you doing these days? Are you still involved with vaulting?
I continue to work on my PhD in civil engineering, which usually takes up to 5 years. Besides that, I love to travel the world and like helping other vaulters. I hold vaulting clinics and I am the National Coach of Finland. In addition to that, I organize training camps for vaulters (and non-vaulters). So, as you can see, I have not turned my back on vaulting.
What made you consider offering vaulting camps? How has the transition been from being an active participant in the sport to offering clinics, coaching and camps?
While I always very much enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience with other vaulters, these vaulting clinics I held were also a source of income needed to pay for my own training and competitions. After ending my active vaulting career 2011 I started up organizing vaulting camps for my Swedish team that I have been working for on a volunteer basis. I often thought that I would do different in those camps, because I wished to see and experience more from that region or country the camps were held in. I simply decided to do better myself and started up offering my own training camps on a regular basis. During my camps I am creating many outdoor training options in the incredible landscape of Sweden and combine this with the traditional indoor training. Incorporating the outdoors into the training and offering related fun activities is a great combination that creates a vacation feeling while doing an intensive work out. Another unique thing is that really everyone is able to join the camp. It does not matter if you are coming alone or in a little group of friends, nor it matters what level of vaulting you reached so far.
My camps are fun and effective and I am constantly working on ideas to improve them even more. If you are curious, check out my webpage at www.gm-sports.eu where you will find all the necessary information to sign up and an abundance of exciting photos from previous camps. I also still offer vaulting clinics, so if a vaulter or vaulting team would like me to work with them, I’d be happy to help and am looking forward to any inquiries in that regard as well.
What experiences, skills and values do you try to pass on to the participants of your camps? What do the international participants learn from one another?
To answer that question, I would like to back up a little bit. The sport of vaulting is becoming increasingly more professional and the performance level has dramatically risen over the past decade, which can be observed on a national and international level. And while I think this is mainly a positive development, it also come with its downside. These days, vaulters need their own hotel rooms to be mentally and physically better prepared for their competitions and to have a place to regenerate during and after. This is what all the big stars in all the sports are doing, so it can’t be wrong, right?! It may not be wrong per se but I do not think it is necessary and it certainly does not help to build the feeling of community amongst fellow vaulters. What I once treasured most about the sport, the feeling that all vaulters are one community, one family, seems to slowly drift to the background in favor of a more “professional approach” to the sport. Therefore the feeling of “community” is something I place a high value on in my camps. No matter if you show up alone or with friends, once you enter my camps we are all ONE team with one goal in common: To have fun while hitting (and often exceeding) our individual training goals! I have excellent trainers who will work with our camp participants in so many different areas, often pushing them to their limits to bring out the best in them. My trainers know how to meet participants at their training level and anyone, no matter how fit or not, can participate in these camps. Whereas we mainly have vaulters at my camps, I do absolutely want to encourage anyone who is into sports to come and join us. Again, just check out my homepage to see how we manage to incorporate a high level of training, loads of fun and scenic backdrops all in one camp (www.gm-sports.eu). It is always great for me to see how old and young, beginners and top athletes from different countries mix and mingle, making these camps social melting pots, all while experiencing what Sweden has to offer.
Are you currently coaching vaulters that are trying to qualify for Le Mans? And if so, what are your goals?
Yes, I should have a few vaulters from Finland competing at the World Championships in Le Mans in August. I am very proud of my Finnish Equipe because I know how hard they were training during winter time. Despite the fact that the temperatures may drop to -20°C till February or March and some of the vaulters do not even have a riding hall to train in, they came out of the winter quite strong. I am very excited and proud to see them perform in Le Mans. Our goal is to put Finland back on the map of international vaulting.