Today, she might be one of the best vaulters in the world. But Pauline Riedl first began to vault as the flyer from Team Neuss (Germany) in 2003 and gained global recognition at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, 2006 when Germany won the golden medal.
If you are old school like I am, thinking about Pauline might bring you a strange feeling of nostalgia. She was an icon for a generation of vaulters, I will never forget the flyer whose leotard opened up like a butterfly in 2007. But since then, Pauline has won basically everything there is to win with the senior squad from Neuss Grimlinghausen. Today, she competes as an individual, studies mechanical engineering and struggles going back and forth between Aachen, where she goes to university, and Neuss, where she vaults.
Learning to Fly is a series about flyers, we have talked to Pauline’s longtime coach Jessica Lichtenberg, Magdalena Riegler from Wildegg and Romane Biardeau the flyer from Noroc. Now we will talk to a base, who started off as a flyer and today is a grown-up beginning her individual career.
How important was vaulting to you when you were growing up, the experience of going to competitions and being on a team?
Vaulting has been the center of my life since I became part of the Senior Team from Neuss at the age of 8. Being in this team was very important to me! Some of the team members became my best friends and something like big sisters.
You are an inspiration to a whole generation of vaulters. Who was your inspiration when you were a flyer yourself? Who are your role models in the sport today?
I think the most important role models for me were my teammates. I always had people around me who were better at many things and I learned a lot from watching them during training. Individual vaulter Nicola Ströh(-Kiedrowski) was also a big inspiration for me.
Today, I often see individual aspects in athletes that inspire me, like the artistic of Jacques Ferrari, but I don’t really have a role model.
How was this first individual-only season for you? Any plans to go back to the team or are you really focusing solely on individual vaulting from now on?
2016 was a transitional year for me after all the time in the team. I wanted to focus more on my studies and gain some first experiences in international 3*-competitions to see if individual vaulting is the right thing for me. I was really surprised to be nominated for the CHIO Aachen, which was the last selection trial for Le Mans. Unfortunately, the season was already over for me before the CHIO because of a leg injury. Now I’m back in training and looking forward to the next individual-only season.
You have been giving clinics and I have seen you advertise your coaching services on Instagram. Do you see yourself as a coach in the future?
I love to work with other vaulters and to see them benefit from my experience. I started training beginner classes in my club when I was 11, but since I’m studying in another city now, I can’t teach classes regularly anymore. When I try to give some clinics now and then. In case I finish my active career someday, I can imagine staying in the sport as a coach.
How are you managing to coordinate your studies and training?
I have to organize every day very well. I try to do as much physical preparation as I can in a gym in Aachen, where I study and live, and I “only” go to Neuss around 3 times a week. But I have to make some adjustments, I need more time for my studies than before so I had to accept that I can’t have everything. I have fewer exams per semester to have more time for training, but I still can’t spend as much time vaulting as I did during my time at school. And extra tasks like riding and giving vaulting lessons are not possible anymore, which I regret a lot. In addition, I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree in the regular time
An interesting aspect of vaulting is that it depends on the relationship between generations. In the same way that you were in a team with Antje Hill, Elisabeth Simon and others, you grew up to be on the same team as Mona Pavetic. What have you learned from the interaction between different generations? Do you think that this was important to you growing up? How was your relationship with Mona, Leonie and other flyers you met on this road?
The diversity of the team members is the thing that I that I like most about team vaulting! I believe that growing up with older teammates had a big influence on my personal development. As a flyer, I was never treated like a child, but as an equal team member, and I already had responsibilities around the stable from a young age.
Of course, there were some changes in the team constellation over the years, and every new member brought new influences, so I kind of grew up together with the team. There has always been a strong bond between the teammates and a good balance between friendship and authority/ respect. My relationship to other flyers was not a special one, I consider Mona and Leonie as friends like Antje and Eli, and I think no one of us will ever forget the time we spent together.
What is your advice to flyers out there who might be reading this and would like to become a successful vaulter like yourself?
Work on your basics and enjoy being a flyer, since (for most of us) the time as a flyer is limited. A good body tension and basic fitness prevents injuries and is necessary for any position in the team or as individual vaulter!