Hamburg native and KLU student Johara Weber had only just started walking when she mounted a horse for the first time. At the age of seven she joined a riding and vaulting team and at sixteen she successfully started competing in individual vaulting. Johara Weber has a bachelor's degree from the KLU where she will also obtain her master's degree in Global Logistics this year.
What appeals to you about this sport?
Johara Weber: On the one hand, it is the teamwork with the horse. The fact that it is a living being and not just a piece of sports equipment is what makes this relationship so special. Over time our trust in one another grows which you can really sense in competitions. On the other hand, this sport is very multifaceted, and there are no limits when it comes to creativity. It combines gymnastics, dancing, acrobatics, and choreographic expression to music. Physically vaulters must be very fit and have excellent coordination.
What impact has the corona crisis had on you as an athlete?
Johara Weber: Initially, it wasn’t allowed to train with the horse. The start of the season was just around the corner. My horse and I would have started out in excellent condition, but this meant we had to improvise in order to maintain our performance level. Fortunately, I have been allowed to train again as an individual athlete for a few weeks now! I have been able to continue athletic and agility training and gymnastics by working out at home or in the garden. This hasn’t been as much fun, but I’ve found that with enough discipline, anything is possible.
When was the first time you rode a horse?
Johara Weber: I could barely walk, so it was very early. I had always loved horses by the time I picked up riding in primary school. But this became too boring for me, so I started vaulting.
Which has obviously been a success! What is a vaulting competition like?
Johara Weber: In vaulting, there are tournaments at all levels, from regional to international. They all have one thing in common which is that they consist of compulsory exercises and a choreographed freestyle routine created by vaulter. This is when I can let my creative juices flow. Another thing all national and international tournaments always require is a technical test. This involves incorporating all of the compulsory elements into an original freestyle routine. Similar to gymnastics, judges evaluate the programs according to fixed criteria such as good technique, difficulty, and originality.
Looking back on the past year, you were able to celebrate your first successes again after spending a longer period of time recovering from an injury sustained in 2017. Tell us about them.
Johara Weber: In 2019, I won First Runner Up of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein (Vize-Landesmeisterin). Starting up with training after the injury was difficult for me at first. I also had a new horse, so we had to take extra care in working on our performance as a team with the assistance of the lunger and my trainer. At the championship (Landesmeisterschaft) I finally had a break through. It was great to be able to recall what I had worked on in training. My head was very clear and focused, and it was so much fun doing gymnastics on the horse!
An injury is a major deal for competitive athletes. How did you deal with it? And how did you manage to come back so successfully?
Johara Weber: After surgery, I was out of operation for a while. It took me a long time to recover. My family helped me out a lot during this difficult period. My most important companions were them, my close friends, and, of course, my horse. It might sound funny, but my pony was also a huge support for me. My pony has been with me half my life, and I’ve started training with it again, too.
How do you master the balancing act between competitive sports and university? What does a typical day look like for you?
Johara Weber: On a typical day I go for a walk with my dog in the morning and then to university. Afterwards I go to the stable or to the gym to work out. I focus on strength, endurance, and flexibility training. On the weekends, there is a lot to do for university. Normally I have homework, I study, and I work on group projects. And, of course, there is always training. Time with friends is limited which is why I enjoy it all the more. It's a lot, but as long as I enjoy vaulting, I'm happy to put up with the time required to do it.
Do competitive sports and having a career go well together?
Johara Weber: I would say they are not mutually exclusive. Competitive sport requires resilience, structure, and diligence, qualities that are beneficial in a career, too. Teamwork is also particularly valuable. Even if vaulting, at least as I am currently pursuing it, is an individual sport, there is always a team behind it which requires cooperation. This also applies to having a career.
You are going to graduate this year. Will there also be a sports highlight?
Johara Weber: After one and a half years of being off with an injury, I am back on the Schleswig-Holstein squad. My goals for this year are to be nominated for the German Championship in August and to enjoy every competition, have fun, and to summon up my training performances.
Johara, we wish you all the best and much success in doing so!