Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2009/2008 AVA/USEF Gold Women’s Individual National Champion, Alicen "Ali" Divita



2009/2008 AVA/USEF Gold Women’s Individual National Champion, Alicen Divita, “Ali,” is majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley.

20 year old Ali, knows that it takes discipline, dedication and a pure love for what you do to succeed. Ali has won the National Individual Championship at every level, Bronze in 2003, Silver in 2004 and Gold in 2008 as well as 2009. She has proved to be just as competitive in the international scene. She placed 4th at CVI Saumur in 2006, and in 2007 she brought home the gold from prestigious CVI Krumke in Germany. In 2006, just five years after she began vaulting, Ali attended the World Equestrian Games as the alternate for the US Individual Team. In 2008, along with many other successes, she earned her spot as a competitor in the World Vaulting Champions in the Czech Republic. Yoga, gymnastics, dance and her creative spirit coupled with her school studies, volunteer activities and a spot on the lightweight crew team keep her balanced both in and out of the vaulting arena. Ali looks forward to competing in the selection trials and hopes to earn her spot as one of the top three vaulters in the country along with the ability to represent the US at the World Equestrian Games.

In January of 2010, Divita was in Germany, working with German vaulting superstar Gero Meyer before vaulting by invitation at a Masters Class at CVI** Leipzig she retells her experience here.


Racing to get to the opposite side of UC Berkeley’s campus between classes today, I swooped into a small café to pick up some food on the go. When breakfast is at 5:30 before morning practice, by the time lunch rolls around, my stomach is loudly exercising its right of free speech, much in the Berkeley spirit. The checkout lady hands me my receipt and as I thank her she gives me a funny look. It takes me a minute before I realize that I had thanked her in German, laughing out loud I politely correct myself and wander off in thought. I just got back from a trip to Germany, and after missing the first week of school and jumping right into life back home in California, my worlds, and my words, are beginning to whirl together.

Leberkäse, which translates directly to “liver cheese,” has nothing to do with liver or cheese. When I arrived at the train station in Munich, I met up with German vaulting master, Gero Meyer and ordered me one with mustard. As I drank in the whole scene, I have to say it was quite good- kind of like high quality spam, but much tastier than it looks and sounds. Sometimes we read or hear about people’s perspectives and hear “leberkäse” but cannot experience the flavor of the situation. This year, the year of the World Equestrian Games being held in my own country, where, for the first time I can compete on my own horses in an international event, is about enjoying the taste from the start to the finish.

Gero was going to do a weekend of clinics down in Austria, so once we got in the car that is where we drove. After explaining vaulting to a passenger we picked up, he asked why we do it, as there must not be much money in the sport. The answer came naturally, “Well ja, we do it because we love it, isn’t that supposed to be the point?” I have a silent moment of “Aha!” and as I listen to Gero further explain his perspective, I want to give him a high five. (Such an American thing to do, I know). I realize that one of the things I love most about vaulting not being as big as some other sports, where the money and the fame start to determine much of its importance, is the people that it attracts. There are no ulterior motives; I know that the physical prizes do not outweigh what you must put in. You get so much more out of it than that. Because of this, I really believe that the drive comes from the heart, it is all about the passion and love for what you do.

When we get to Austria, I feel like all of the German I previously understood has left me. I definitely did not prepare for the accent. When talking to our host parents, I smile whenever Gero smiles and nod enthusiastically whenever his reply to one of their questions is yes. The result of this was that all weekend we were both served Gero’s favorite foods, and of course, he got the room with the bigger bed.

Once we were back in München where Gero regularly trains, I got to live with another lovely family. Like so many of the people that I have stayed with throughout my vaulting adventures, they were incredibly welcoming. They were a very musical bunch, just like my own family (my personal musical talents, however, being more focused on consumption). I love coming home to listen to my dad and brother play guitar, as my little sister and mom sometimes chime in singing. It is the “samsara” of the day, a place to let our bodies catch up with all that we have experienced the hectic hours of being awake.

It does not get cold in California. No matter what I thought before, we really are spoiled when it comes to temperature. However, I once heard someone say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. No matter what situation you find yourself in, it is always about the perspective that you bring. In the morning, I wake up and begin the process of getting dressed for vaulting. Just imagine a suitcase very full of vaulting clothes, to those not familiar, this includes leg warmers, thigh high socks, fuzzy spandex pants- pretty much anything and everything stretchy and warm. In the next scene, picture the suitcase now half empty, me standing there like a Michelin man, sweating. I waddle into Gero’s room and tell him that I am ready to go. The look on his face explains that humor is often a result of our varying interpretations of “appropriate.”

We get to the barn and Gero decides that it would be a great idea to go running through the hills that are covered in a foot and a half of snow. It is -2° Celsius and I look down at my new running shoes made of mesh. Right, running through the snow, just what I was thinking. But somehow he finds a way to make it fun; soon enough the Michelin man layers become unnecessary and I find myself sprinting up hills and jumping to knock the snow off tree branches. I always find it funny to hear people say after they have achieved something great, “it hasn’t hit me yet.” I had this realization that that’s because it has already hit you. This is it. All we have is today. And then, as if you didn’t see it coming, a huge ball of snow hits me in the face. Thanks Gero.

After spending a week training with Gero, I head off to Krumke, my home away from home, where the horse I will compete on and my “adopted” family live. As I get out of the car, I see Oma and Opa standing outside near the vegetable garden. The first time that I came to this home I was twelve, now standing here as a twenty year old I feel so much more comfortable; I am so thankful to be welcome in this town where they say horses outnumber humans.

As you can tell, my experiences here have taught me so much about language. Although I joke about my abilities, having studied German in school has literally opened up the worlds of being able to speak to people I meet. The gap is easy to overcome, and it is often my favorite- and by far the most entertaining- part of my travels. Trying to tell Marion that she and her siblings have a similar sense of humor, I mistakenly add “sch” to the beginning of “witzen” (to joke), and as Ines dies of laughter, Marion cannot figure out why I am telling her that she sweats just like her sister. Oops. Sometimes we would skip the words and get directly at the meaning. One of my favorite moments was at lunch, when I asked Oma where the schnitzel had come from. With the sweetest face, and the cutest grandma like way, she simply holds up an imaginary chicken and mimes slicing its throat herself. Message received. A whole new respect for Oma gained.

If you have a message that you are passionate about, you will find a way to communicate it. The language is just our connection with words, music, food… or maybe the connection we have when finding harmony of our own movement and that of a horse. For me it is about finding that passion and soaking in everything it takes to get to that point of expression. Now I am off to France, a country where I do not speak a lick of their beautiful tongue, to compete in an international competition in the historic town of Saumur. I shall write next time with the results, but after reading this blog, you can probably predict it’s actually going to be about the experience.

35 comments:

  1. Enjoyed reading your story Ali. I have to admit that my knowledge of Vaulting is limited and I have only seen a single demonstration so I am very much looking forward to catching it at the Games. Best of luck in the selection trials, hope to see you as a competitor at the Games.

    Thomas
    KyWEGO

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  2. Ali: You write as well as you vault; fanstsic! Enjoyed your story.

    Nell

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  3. Yes, you are a writer. With all the "worldly" knowledge you have, you could write books. Thanks for enlightening our WEG experience.

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