Lambert Leclezio (May 5th, 1997) started vaulting in 2008 after discovering it thanks to a clinic he attended in the club he was doing horse riding. He competes internationally since 2011. Among his many achievements are the individual gold medal at the World Championships for Seniors in 2016 and 2018 and gold medal at the European Championships in 2019. He is also the 2015 Junior Worlds bronze medallist.
I was thinking about all the past editions of the Championships I have seen so far, while going through the last few pictures of the Equestrian Vaulting European Championships in Ermelo (NED) the other day. I decided to go through my old data and at some point, I stumbled upon an old folder of pictures from the 2011 European Championships in Le Mans (FRA).
Of that edition I remember three things vividly: the incredible heat we suffered during the event, Joanne Eccles rising to her third gold medal in a row and this tiny little boy dressed in grey coming from nowhere, extremely thin and harmonious in his movements. I have to be honest, when he first entered the circle my first thought was that this boy had been mercilessly tossed in the lion’s pit of the individual junior male event (Thomas Brüsewitz, Ramin Rahimi and Lukas Heppler were just three of the boys competing in the category that year). Instead, he amazed the crowed with a performance that I for one would have never thought possible. I remember thinking, wow, give this boy a few years and he will be a force to reckon with. Well, it’s been eight years since then and that tiny little boy from nowhere grew to become two-times world champion. His name? Lambert Leclezio.
Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, said Eleanor Roosvelt. The 22-year-old Mauritian knows a thing or two about that himself since, as he said, was always a dreamer but would have never expected any of the success he had and has “worked super hard to make that dream come true”.
Just a couple of weeks ago we saw him vaulting to his first European title at his very first European Championships since he chose to switch nationality from Mauritius to France. But one does not simply go from small-town-boy to double world champion. It takes hard work, patience and dedication. And sacrifice as well. For him, who was born and raised in the Island of Mauritius, such a sacrifice consisted also in leaving his nation behind to move to France where he is now stably living and training with Jacques Ferrari and the Compagnie Noroc. Moving around to chase his dreams seams to never have been a big of a deal, though. After first clumping together with a team from South Africa for his first international travels, Lambert has trained with lungers and horses from The Netherlands, France (of course) ad has now formed a brand-new partnership with the swiss duo Corinne Bosshard and Aroc with whom he competed this past season.
“I told them they had to trust in their dreams and that everything was possible if they really believe in it and if they really work hard to achieve their goals.”
How did you get involved in vaulting (and when)?
I got involved in vaulting in 2008. I did a vaulting discovery clinic in the club I was doing horse riding. I liked it and I decided to continue.
Do you have any special memory regarding vaulting (important, funny, sad, …) you want to share with us?
I have gone through many things in my vaulting career.
The most powerful moments were of course my gold medals: the one I had in 2016 as a mauritian vaulter was for me quite unexpected. The one from the world Equestrian games last year has been a real honor as I have trained crazy hard to reach it. And the two golds of this year at Europeans were a really good feeling as everything has been working excellently at the good moment and of course the Nations cup medal was awesome as it was a real team work.
The most sad moment was in 2015 when I have lost my horse Timo from the Netherland by a tragic accident just before the first ever Junior World Championship, where I had a real chance for the title.
Looking back at your early vaulting days, did you ever think you would have achieved all your goals and won all your medals?
No way haha. I always have been a dreamer, but I have never expected all of that.
Should you credit someone for making you the vaulter you are today, who would it be and why?
I would say that I have met many people in my life that have made it possible.
First Stephanie Jauffret from Mauritius, who has always believed in me and pushed me to go abroad to train. Barbie Gertenbach from the RSA, for giving me the chance to follow her group and go compete for the first time in Europe.
Roos Slottje (NED), lunging and coaching me during all my Junior years, with whom I have competed my first World Equestrian Games in Normandie in 2014.
Jacques Ferrari for taking me in the Noroc company in 2015. There, I have learnt so many things. And it has been the start of my successful years.
To a vaulter every horse might feel very different from the others. Who is (or has been) your “once in a lifetime horse” and what is special about him?
That is a very difficult question as my 3 individual titles, I had with 3 different horses. I had a special connection with all of them making the dreams come true.
“I really understood the importance of creativity and interpretation and that vaulting should be also like a dance on the horse and not only a sequence of gymnastic moves.”
I remember you competing in Le Mans in 2011. You were young but already incredibly good and I remember thinking, give this boy a few years and he will rule the game. Now, I imagine Mauritius to be quite “limited” in the matter of vaulting prospects. How did you manage back then to get to such a high level?
2011 was my first vaulting championship. I was quite talented but had no control on what I was doing. But I remember that at this competition, I told myself I had to start training hard as I wanted to go to the highest level. That’s also the moment vaulting started to get a very important place in my life.
And then you moved to France. What made you decide to do so?
I first moved to France as Jacques Ferrari allowed me to enter Noroc and train with his team. Then I decided to stay in France for all the training facilities.
What advice would you give right now to a young Mauritian who would want to follow your footsteps and get into the Vaulting game at the highest level?
I was in Mauritius last week and I had the chance to speak with the vaulters from my old club. I told them they had to trust in their dreams and that everything was possible if they really believe in it and if they really work hard to achieve their goals.
You are now a role model for many young vaulter. Who did you look up to when you were first starting your career? And who inspires you the most right now? ?
I remember that when I really started to look at the top level, Joanne Eccles and Jacques were ruling the game. I was then very admirative. I really was impressed by Joanne making everything look so soft and easy on the horse… I even remember trying some moves back home thinking: « Waw, that is actually very hard haha ». Jacques because his vaulting was very different from the other ones, it was always moving and it kept me captivated.
Now, I do not have an athlete that inspires me in particular. But I am very interested by all the people, individuals, team, pas de deux trying to bring something new to our sport. I am also sometimes looking at other sport to get some inspiration.
Your creative and interpretative skills are quite remarkable. Did you acquired them by training with the Compagnie Noroc and working side by side everyday with Jacques Ferrari? What can you tell us about your partnership?
With Noroc, I really understood the importance of creativity and interpretation. I realized vaulting should be also like a dance on the horse and not only a sequence of gymnastic moves. I have worked in 2016 with Jacques and the rest of the company on that. Then I had the chance to also work with a choreograph and dancers.
It was very easy for me to work with Jacques as a coach as we are both hard workers, not counting hours. The last 2 years he was helping me a bit less than 2016, but he has always been here to help me in some decisions or when I needed some help.
“I have so many moves I want to try and still so many things I can improve on. My goal is now to really push the limit of the sport and help it to evolve.”
You are World Champion 2016 and 2018, European Champion 2019 but you also had a successful junior career. What has been your most satisfying season so far?
Also a difficult question. Some of the most successful season had also some of the worst moment mentally and physically. 2020 will be the most satisfying😉
2018’s title was my biggest achievement so far, but it has been such a difficult year. We were training with the team together that year, so I have been very impacted by all the problems happening in the team leading to the decision of the federation not to send them (to the Games, nde). The atmosphere was very hard to deal with and that was the moment I also partly fractured my femur bone. What really helped then was that the other individuals (Manon Noel, Clement Taillez and Vincent Heannel) came to Saumur the last 2 months before WEG. It has been very fun and motivating.
2019 had also up and downs. I first struggled until February to find a horse for the season. I had from WEG to that moment only few horse trainings and no competition horse. It was for me very hard to plan the season and have a correct winter training. Founding Aroc and Corinne (Bosshard) was for me the beginning of a new story. The people in Swiss have helped me a lot to build up again. The first competitions have been complicated especially our first national, Saumur and Ermelo as Corinne, Aroc and I were not working a long time together and Aroc is really a special horse that needs time to trust you and give his best for you. Then we started to really work as a trio. Corinne, Aroc and I have really worked super hard to make the dream come true. The Europeans going so good was such an amazing reward for us. But I am really glad that I have met this year really amazing people supporting you and only wishing for your best.
Finally, the most satisfying Junior season was by far 2014. Competing at WEG for the first time against the very best of the Senior World and finishing 6th place was for me a great achievement.
You won two world titles for two different nationalities. What’s the difference between competing for France and Mauritius?
For me it makes not much difference. What is the most important for me is the team I have around me.
But giving Mauritius it first gold medal in Equestrian Sport and to be one of the very rare world champions on the island has been a real honour.
Last but not least, what are the next steps of your career? What are you planning?
I am planning to go until 2022 as an individual. I really hope they will manage to make a WEG that year.
I have so many moves I want to try and still so many things I can improve on. My goal is now to really push the limit of the sport and help it to evolve.