Stefan Csandl is one of the most successful Austrian vaulters representing his nation at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon 2018 together with his PDD partner Theresa Thiel. He’s also an individual vaulter and team member of UVT Eligius. Love and passion for vaulting made him candidate for the elections as FEI Vaulting Representative. His goals are to make vaulting more accessible, safer and fairer. Read more about his mission in our interview!

About Stefan

Age: 30

Occupation/Education: I work as a Physiotherapist, Carer for disabled people and as vaulting judge and coach, I did a Bachelor Degree in “Trainingscience and Sportsmanagement” and in “Physiotherapy”. Currently I’m in the process of becoming a Sportsphysiotherapist.

Nationality: Austria

Horse: Crossino 2 (Pas-de-Deux) and Leokado (Team)

Lunger: Karin Böhmer (PDD) and Cornelia Trimmel (Team)

Achievements in Vaulting:

3rd WEG Aachen 2006 (Team, Libretto, Maria Lehrmann)

Winner CHIO Aachen 2012 (Solitaire Legacy, Julie Newell)

3rd European Championships 2013 (Weimar CH, Barbara Zürcher),

Best Pas de Deux 2016 (Crossino 2/Karin Böhmer, Diva/carolin Bland)

I couldn’t live without: Sports, Ice Cream and Music

Motto: “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”  (Oscar Wilde)

1. Please describe yourself with 3 words:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Nice, determined, studious.

2. Please tell us about your “Vaulting Story”: How did you start? At what age? Where? How did you become “vaulting addicted”?

I startet at the age of 4, after my dad died. I showed no signs of grief and changes in my behavior, so my sister’s vaulting coach suggested hippo therapy. I really enjoyed being with the horse and soon wanted to move more on the horse and change to vaulting classes. Very soon it was clear, that I love this sport and I wanted to become better at it.

3. What was your funniest vaulting moment?

Well if you ask about fun, one of the best experiences I ever had in vaulting was vaulting in Doha in 2014 and 2015. We all felt so special for being part of this extravagant journey.

4. What motivates you to be the FEI Vaulting Representative? How do you imagine this role? What would you like to achieve?

I love this sport and I enjoy thinking about it and creating new possibilities for vaulters. During clinics I can see that often there is a lack of information. I see it as my mission to make information more accessible, the more vaulters know about the rules, changes, etc. the more good vaulters we might have in the future. Bringing vaulting to a more professional level needs great vaulters and great coaches all aroud the world and there tool has to be knowledge.

5. Can you tell us 3 things you would like to recommend/suggest to the FEI for the vaulters or for the discipline in general?

> ​​​​​​​I’d like to make vaulting safe. So I’d like to implement additional rules that creat a safer enviroment in training. For example if there would be a independent score for the landing (technique, form,…) it would make coaches and vaulters focus more on the actual quality of the landing itself, what could potentially reduce the number of injuries during a vaulting season. This leads to my Number 2.

> The FEI campus is a very good possibility to spread knowledge. At the moment it focuses more on rules and horsemanship, but why not creating topics for Vaulting that include training science, nutrition, injury prevention. The IOC uses online clinics to distribute certain information so let’s do the same!

> At competition vaulters talk and often, they have good ideas to make the sport fairer. I want to be the person who creats a vital dialogue, creating a platform where we can share this information. It needs a lot of minds to generate ideas and make reasonable change.

6. You are a very successful individual, PDD and team vaulter, what do you enjoy the most and why?

This is hard question because they are actually so different. My favorite part of vaulting is creating new freestyles. Team, Pas de deux and Individual vaulting ask for different qualities in a vaulter. Probably I like team the best, as you have 4 minutes to tell a story and of course it’s more fun to train
with friends. PDD and Individuals is just more challenging regarding my physical abilities but with Theresa Thiel I’ve found my vaulting companion for life which makes this disciplin very special for me.

7. You’re also a judge, so according to you, what are the limits of our judging system? How do you believe we could improve it?

I personally think the system is very good. What we need is a dialogue between the judges and a plattform where we can train. I train judging a lot with friends. As the sport develops continously we judges need to edjucate ourselves too on a regular base.

8. If you had to invent a new product for the vaulting community, what would you create?

A judging app… voice controled, compareable. Makes studying so much easier. But that’s probably more out of personal reasons^^ but it would improve the quality of judging.

9. What would be your advice to the junior vaulters who are willing to compete internationally?

Watch a lot of videos, and be smart! Technic trumps artistic but artistic makes magic happen!

10. How do you imagine vaulting in 20 years?

That’s a tuff question. Less compulsories in higher level competitions. More focus on the artistic concept and world cup competitions.

11. Any surprise or announcement for us

I’m not such a surprise person 😀 so ahm nothing to announce…yet!

Read Stefan’s Letter of Motivation for the position as FEI Vaulting Athletes Representative:

Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

With this letter, I would like to express my motivation to apply for the position of athlete representative for vaulting, following in the footsteps of my colleague and friend Lukas Klouda.

When I was four years old, my father collapsed and died in front of me. Even though I was unable to process what had just happened, I remember knowing instantly that my dad was gone. My mum, who is probably the strongest and most kind person I know, found a way to guide us through this hard time. My older sister Barbara was already vaulting at the time, and her trainer was not only a vaulting coach, but also worked with kids to create a setting that could enhance their personal development. She suggested that I could profit from working with a horse and this is how my vaulting journey began. The first horse I was working with was called “Ina.” I remember myself sitting backwards on her drawing a lying 8 in her fur, my first contact with eternity, and a sealed bond with horses and this wonderful sport.

I soon started to love being around horses and moving on their backs. I used to sneak onto my sister’s barrel so that I could train and work on my form, not knowing where this adventure was going to take me in the future. When I was around seven, at a summer camp, we saw a video of vaulters at the World Championships; This was the moment I knew that I wanted to be among the best in this unique sport. And even at the end of that week, when we all had to present our training goals, my goal was already that I wanted to become a World Champion one day… well this hasn’t happened yet but I have had many great achievements during my career. Through vaulting and coaching in over 10 countries I have created memories that will turn into great stories about my past, met people from all around the world, and cultivated friendships that will last for a lifetime.

I think that these friendships can be of a greater value by using them as a tool to inform vaulters directly, instead of hoping that each federation let their vaulters know about the latest changes that have been made at a seminar. If more vaulters know earlier about changes, new rules etc. they have a chance to train earlier and in the right direction, thus bettering the sport. Effective communication paired with knowledge will improve the sport on a different level. Therefore, I’d like to create a sport where this flow of information takes place, not just from the athlete representative to the vaulters, but also the other way around. Ideas from all around the world, that could help develop this great sport, would have the chance to be heard. The goal would be to have a 360-degree process for receiving notes, proposals and suggestions to shape the sport towards a successful future. There are certain channels which could be used to create this virtual room for exchange. Starting with general information and the chance to develop into a flourishing area for interaction about training, coaching methods, CVI’s, horse sharing, lunging materials,… wherever that journey might take us while creating this think tank for equestrian vaulting.

My studies in the fields of training science, sports management and physiotherapy combined with my far-reaching experience and interest in vaulting as an athlete, coach and judge make me a person willing to achieve improvement for vaulters and the sport itself. For example, making the sport safer. Indicating weak spots in rules that might influence our athletes’ health. Not only while they are young but also beyond their life as an active athlete.

I think my unique set of qualifications can be of great value to both the vaulters and the FEI vaulting committee, creating a vital link between those who create the rules for this great sport and those who perform.

Thank you for considering my candidacy during these elections.

Kind regards

Stefan Csandl, BB.Sc.