It seems like yesterday, but it has already been two years since we covered the first ever World Championships for Jrs here on VaultingNews. It was an amazing competition that managed to put Ermelo once and for all right at the center of the vaulting world.
The Jr category has been going on for some time in Europe, I don’t really have a factual date for you, but lightly taking Marc Schuirmann’s page as a reference, the first signs of Jr European Championships date from Brescia, Italy, in 2005 – great competition BTW, I really recommend you going through it, particular emphasis on Wildegg’s jr gold medal freestyle and Sr Slovakia – the difference of the early junior championships though is that back then most clubs didn’t have a permanent junior squad, sometimes the teams that went to championships were a combination of younger vaulters from main clubs rather than athletes dedicated to the task.
Today, things have changed and investing in the jrs is a strategy that has already been adopted by some of the main clubs. Let’s take Team Neuss as an example: six out of the seven official vaulters on their senior squad this season eventually came from their jr squad.
But the question remains: What is the effect that being a successful jr holds in the future of a vaulting career? Again, this analysis won’t have the biggest statistical relevance, but we decided to take a look at what happened to those athletes who made it to de podium in 2015 and see what their future held.
The first and most obvious regard is Lambert Leclezio. The young athlete from Mauritius ended Ermelo with a bronze medal and, one year later, earned the gold one at the World Championships for SENIORS in Le Mans. One question we need to ask is: Were other vaulters as successful as Lambert? Let’s take a look:
THEY ARE COMING BACK
As Lambert, Juan Martin Clavijo also went from the jrs straight to the senior worlds. But recently we gathered for a chat with our young South American champion and learned that he is back for his last season as a jr this year and will try to secure his title in Ebreichsdorf, which strikes me with the fact that Juan was super young in 2015!
Clavijo is not the only 2015 medalist who is coming back this year, Franziska Peitzmeier, from Germany, earned the silver medal in Ermelo and is going to try another one this year. She has had a stellar season so far, winning the gold medal in the CVI Belgium, so we should definitely keep an eye out for her in Austria. Another German to watch, Gregor Klehe wasn’t at the podium last time, he finished in the fourth position, but was part of the silver medal squad from Germany and is coming back as an individual to try once again.
Speaking of making come backs, when we think about jr squads we must always remember Club 43, from Austria, traditionally one of the strongest jr teams around. In 2015 they went home with the gold medal and 3 athletes are coming back to try and secure the title at home: Lena Birkenau, Christine Wagenlechner and Sarah Kopp are still juniors and going steady on the team. Their horse Darwin is also set to return. Alina Barosch was part of the junior team from 2010 until 2014. She won two European championship squad gold and three silver medals, as well as the silver medal as individual in 2014. With 21 years, she now qualified for the senior championships for the first time.
Two members of the bronze medal squad that represented the USA in Ermelo are also coming back: Audrey Kiernan and Miki Yang. You might remember Miki as the cute little flyer who played the lion in their Wizard of Oz freestyle. Janie Salisbury, who won the PDD bronze medal back in 2015 is now part of the main squad and will also be in Ebreichsdorf. She hasn’t given up on PDD though and will be back now paired with team-mate Bridget Kiernan.
Another American making a comeback is Bodhi Hall. In 2015 she earned the gold medal together with Michelle Guo as a PDD, but Michelle is no longer a Jr, therefore Bodhi is now pairing with Caroline Morse. Hall will also be competing individually.
When taking a look at the official entries for Ebreichsdorf I notice that the oldest athlete signed up to compete seems to be Emma Counsell, who will represent Great Britain individually and as part of the squad. She is the only one born in 1998 who is signed up to compete in Ebreichsdorf and was also in Ermelo two years ago, but only as part of the squad. Emma, BTW, has been having a steady season this year, finishing CVI Belgium in the 7th position and CVI Saumur in 2nd place.
2. VAULTING ON
If you are thinking that Lambert Leclezio is the only medalist from Ermelo who won a world title since 2015, you are quite mistaken. Manon Moutinho, a bronze medalist in 2015, was part of the French squad that won the gold medal at the World Championships in Le Mans in 2016, you might remember them. This season Manon is competing individually as a Sr and won the CVI Saumur.
Sophia Stangl, who was in Ermelo both individually and as part of Germany’s silver medal squad, went on to compete as part of Ingelsberg’s senior team that earned the silver medal at the World Championships in Le Mans last year.
Other athletes who have had success as seniors since they went back home from Ermelo are Juan Martin himself, who finished with the 9th position in Le Mans, we have also mentioned Michelle Guo, who went on to compete as a senior and finished Le Mans in the 27th position.
Truth be told, we still don’t know the repercussions of adding jr vaulters to the vaulting equation, but it is pretty amazing to see that so many of them are sticking to the sport. In fact, if we take a close look at some of the most dominant vaulters at the present moment, we might find the many of them were pretty successful juniors: Johannes Kay, Balázs Bence, Daniela Fritz, Miro Rengel, Ramin Rahimi, Julian Wilfling, Colin Michel… There is no denying that since we began to think about jrs as an exclusive category, and not a side effect of the seniors, the sport grew in quality and number.
A final regard that we must make: Yes, it is cool to think that maybe Neuss is a sort of vaulting FC Barcelona that raises young vaulters since they are young and has a great project that starts with jr athletes. But let’s not forget that the greatest asset we can take out of jrs is the fact that it puts young people in the spotlight and gives them palpable goals, which is great for anyone who is growing up. So from the point of view of vaulting as a learning experience, it is definitely great: Team work, healthy competition… Vaulting is a great development sport.
PS: Most of the data used in this article was taken from FEI’s data hub. I would like to apologize in advance if I forgot to mention someone or if there is anything wrong, if you know of any other interesting story that could be featured here, please don’t hesitate to tell us.
August 2nd to August 6th
Ebreichsdorf – Austria