Ling Beisecker ’13 sits perfectly still with her torso twisted opposite her legs. She throws her hands down and swings her legs up into the air into a handstand. After a split-second pause, Beisecker throws her body into the air and sticks a two-footed landing.
If she were a gymnast, Beisecker would be done with her routine. Instead, she has to go find her horse.
Beisecker is an equestrian vaulter — a sport that is part show riding, part gymnastics. A second-semester freshman with dual citizenship, Beisecker will compete for China in the World Equestrian Games Oct. 6 through 8.
“I made the decision five years back when I went to a clinic with expert vaulters and coaches,” Beisecker said. “A German coach, Christoph Lenzig, said, ‘There has never been a Chinese vaulter before. You would be the first ever at the World Equestrian Games.’”
After immigrating to the United States with her family when she was three years old, Beiscker picked up the sport quickly from her sisters.
“I started 14 years ago,” Beisecker said. “My older sisters did it, and they would practice at home. I was young, and they would be like, ‘Ling, why don’t you volunteer?’”
The freshman trained at Doridell Farms in Blacksburg, Va., since her father acquired several horses of his own. Beisecker, who competes on Ashlea, a 20-year-old Percheron mare, decided to compete in the World Equestrian Games five years ago, a process she knew would conflict with her enrollment at the College of William and Mary last fall.
Beisecker made the Dean’s List last fall, before deciding to take the next two semesters off in order to compete at the Games.
“I knew I would take the next spring off and the fall off,” Beisecker said. “It was either not go for a year and a half, or go for the first semester.”
Despite competing in a unique sport at a world class level, Beisecker has maintained the trappings of a normal teenage life. She was a member of the cross country team at Blacksburg High School, where she was a member of state championship teams from 2006-2008.
One of her best memories from her first semester at the College was driving out to the Jamestown ferry with her friends.
“We were concerned because we didn’t know when the ferry closed,” Beisecker said. “But it turns out it goes 24 hours. The workers were like, ‘This is so cool.’”
Still, Beisecker’s life as an equestrian vaulter was never far from her mind. She returned home once a month to prepare for the upcoming World Equestrian Games. In the spring, Beisecker traveled to South Africa to teach equestrian vaulting clinics.
“Volunteering was a life-changing experience for me,” Beisecker said. “We would work in the towns with the people. You go there thinking your dorm [room] is so small, and you go down there and your dorm is twice the size of some of the houses with four or five children in it.”
Beisecker returned to the states after her trip to train for the upcoming Games. Unlike regular riding horses, vaulting horses are equipped with a surcingle, a leather strap fitted around a horses girth area in order to stablize the vaulter.
Beisecker insists her sport is no more dangerous than any other, saying her worst injury was an injury to her left elbow a couple of years ago when she tripped on a landing. In fact, the biggest challenge she said she faces is a mental one.
“I recently downloaded some sports psychology stuff from iTunes, and it helps with mental toughness,” Beisecker said. “It’s really helped the past few months — how to deal with it mentally if you have a bad warmup, for example.”
Not only has Beisecker improved her mentality over the past few months, but she has also improved her ranking in meets. She finished fifth in her last competition.
Success has Beisecker thinking big as she heads into her most important competition.
“I’ve made a lot of really big strides recently,” Beisecker said. “My goals are not to settle, [but] to go out there and make the top 15. Then I want to go into the second round and do well.”