Shaolin monks spur world’s best vaulter

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 15:50:42-05

Ever tried emulating the jumps, spins, kicks and aerial antics of the Shaolin warrior monks? How about on horseback?

It works for Germany’s Jannis Drewell, whose Shaolin kung fu-inspired routine won him the European vaulting championships last year.

Vaulting is gymnastics and dance on a moving horse, while the Shaolin monks are feted for their acrobatic and explosive martial arts moves. Combine the two, and if you are Drewell you become world No.1.

“The Shaolin monk routine was the idea of our national trainer Kai Vorberg — he saw the movie ‘Kung-Fu Panda,'” Drewell told CNN.

“He said it was great, but we needed a costume and then he saw a picture of the Shaolin monks in the newspaper. I then tried to learn how they move and bring it onto the horse — we’ve got a choreographer who helps me,” he says.

The 24-year-old’s hard work has clearly paid off — his high-flying performances earning victory in all three of the World Cup qualifying rounds he has entered this season, in Salzburg, Austria, Mechelen in Belgium and on home soil in Leipzig.

‘Dream’ win

Drewell, who will start as favorite for the World Cup finals in Dortmund in March, was stunned when he clinched the European crown and achieved his “dream” in Aachen last August.

“I did not really realize that I had won this because I did not hear the guy who told us and I stand there and I get the marks, and I’m OK, that’s good but I don’t know how the others were like,” he told CNN.

“Then my coach comes and says, ‘Jannis, you are the European champion’ and I’m like: ‘WHAT?’ ‘Yeah, you are the European champion …’

“There was so much emotion in one moment, it’s really difficult to explain.”

But how, exactly, do you get into vaulting in the first place?

“My mother was a coach in vaulting for long years and so I always had to go with her when I was a child,” he added.

“I loved working together with horses, but only riding was kind of boring so I thought I have to do something more. So yeah, when I was eight years old I started vaulting.”

Drewell’s mother Simona is now his trainer and lunger — the person who holds the reins and keeps the horse cantering in a circle.

The vaulter, lunger and horse must be in perfect symmetry to achieve the best results.

“You have to like the horse and they need to like you,” adds Drewell.

Dressing as a Shaolin monk also helps.