Devon's 2002 WEG Diary
By Devon Maitozo for USET News
It’s quite a task to describe what a competition like the W.E.G. in Jerez amounts to in the scheme of an equestrian career such as my own. I would first have to chronicle the development of the sport of vaulting over the past two decades, and then describe how I have fit in. I’ll spare you for now. What I would like to describe is how this competition made me prouder than ever to be a vaulter.
This was my third W.E.G. and sixth world championship. With a bronze, it wasn’t my most successful as an individual, but ultimately my most successful due to the fact that I coached my own team there as well. The process of getting my team to compete in Jerez started two years earlier with recruiting, training, planning…. This is as big as it gets for us. It’s our Olympics, and through catharsis and glory, we all lived and breathed the pursuit of this goal until it came to pass.
As an individual competitor, 2002 in Jerez has been on my mind ever since I heard about it in Rome four years ago. Back then I thought it might be my last competition while defending my W.E.G. title. Now, with the sport and its acceptance moving in the right direction, I’m not so sure if I’m finished yet.
I have been successfully competing on the same horse in Europe for a couple years now, and it wasn’t going to change for this competition. Abu Dhabi is his name, and he spends most of his leisure time grazing in the German Schwarzwald. For the team, competing on our own horse in Jerez wasn’t a feasible decision. After a couple trips to Europe in search for the right match, I found Czar Ivan (a warm-blood imported to a German vaulting club from Russia), and the windy road was paved to Jerez for my team and my self.
Arriving at the competition was quite a pleasing surprise for all of us. We somehow survived the accreditation madness and made our way to the vaulting stadium. Our eyes all widened and the team’s jaws dropped to the floor. It was real! I personally love sharing that feel of world-class competition with the team more than anything, but I was also reliving a past feeling for myself this time. This was special for so many reasons. The stadium, like a large theater-in-the-round, was a spectacular venue for our sport. It was open, well lit, and noble in its presentation. To me, the theatricality of our sport is very important, and this space helped create an air of performance. We were also in immediate proximity to the other disciplines. As opposed to the last W.E.G., this gave us a true feeling of participation in the multidiscipline grandeur that makes it unique to other competitions. We were able to share the sport of vaulting with the rest of the equestrian world, but most importantly, we were truly part of Team USA for the first time.
Being a part of the Unites States Equestrian Team made the difference. We felt it from the moment we arrived and were greeted with gifts, jackets, and warm words of welcome. To us, having other equestrian professionals there to assist and support us was like having a red carpet rolled out before our eyes. Much more importantly, it provided us with council that we ultimately depended upon as we could never have expected. Our horses passed all inspections with flying colors thanks to the welcomed advice of a team veterinarian. We are also indebted to the Team Doctor who helped the most crucial member of my team to manage a flu that threatened to keep them from competing. Thank you a million times.
The team ended up in a respectable fifth place, and at the end of the day, my bronze felt very good. The compliments that I received for the team were more valuable than any medal could have been. I think people really enjoyed us, and that feels better than I could ever describe. All in all, this was the best W.E.G. to date, and it marks the beginning of a collaboration that will have many future successes. This I’m sure of.