Flying The Flag
For Vaulting's
Bright Future

03 August 2018

Anyone who has watched Vaulter Juan Martin Clavijo performing would immediately recognise his athletic, theatrical style...

In a week when we’re looking to #BeSpectacular ahead of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG), who better to profile than the young Colombian who burst onto the Vaulting scene by taking a gold medal at the FEI World Championships for Juniors at Ebreichsdorf in 2017. 


Vaulting is in the family for Juan Martin and the Clavijo name is known across the circuit. His sister Sylvia competed for Colombia in vaulting at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) in 2014 in Normandy, France


We caught up with Clavijo to get to know him a bit better, and he happily shared details about his training with us, as well as his advice for other up-and-coming vaulters and his goals for the future….

“I actually think that what helps me perform well at big events is not getting nervous.”

Holding your nerve and keeping your focus at the big events

It was in fact Sylvia who got Juan Martin started in vaulting too; after watching her at the stables, he wanted to join in as well and began equestrian sport at five years old.


His training has become the focus of his life lately, and he practices every day beginning at seven or eight in the morning and continuing until lunch. Starting mid-July, Clavijo will add another two hours to his training regimen to get ready for the WEG.


"I focus on a few things for a considerable amount of time," he said.


“For example, one day on dynamic compulsory exercises, another for statics, and maybe two tech exercises. And depending on that, I make the appropriate conditioning. I also stretch every day, but for two days a week I stretch longer.”



In the past, Clavijo also took lessons in gymnastics and dance to enhance his vaulting performance.


To prepare for an upcoming stay in Switzerland for eight or nine months in October, Clavijo spends his afternoons studying German. He doesn’t have time for any real hobbies at the moment but enjoys venturing out in his free time with his school or Vaulting friends.


In spite of his intense schedule, Clavijo says Vaulting is still no cake walk. When asked which aspects of competition he finds most challenging, he said:


"I would say having continuity between and during the exercises, for all compulsories, freestyles and tech moves."


Surprisingly, nerves are one part of his Vaulting performance that Clavijo doesn’t much struggle with.


“I actually think that what helps me perform well at big events is not getting nervous, so I decide no to be,” he said. “I also focus on my breathing. I try not to think about anything. I talk to myself, and when performing, I find myself focusing only on counting really well.”


I find it very rewarding to become mentally strong

All of that commitment and passion have paid off for Clavijo, and not just on the podium. The “self-satisfaction one gets when achieving goals for one’s own merit” is his greatest recompense when it comes to Vaulting.


"It’s rewarding to make your time worthy when you are so devoted to the sport," he said.


"I also find it very rewarding to become mentally strong."


For such a young athlete, Clavijo offers sage advice for other Vaulters who wish to make it to his level. “Look at videos of other performers and analyze them with detail,” he suggests. He also advises athletes not to settle for small goals, both in training and in competition and to be “very meticulous when performing training exercises.”


This attention to detail will assuredly be on display at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina this autumn. What’s on deck for Clavijo after that? After his trip to Switzerland, he plans to study osteopathy.


But his fans needn’t worry that he’ll disappear from the Vaulting community.


"I don’t ever want to separate my life completely from vaulting,” he said.


 Given his tremendous potential now, that’s good news, and we hope to see him at many more events after Tryon.

Keep up to date with all the FEI World Equestrian Games™ news on our social channels, and follow the events leading to North Carolina on FEI TV.


Text by Patricia Salem