Love in Volteo: The family behind the National Argentine Vaulting Team

Natasha and Guadalupe Alvarez perform a stunt during practice at their training facility in Moreno, Argentina. (Julia O’Leary/MEDILL)

By Julia O’Leary and Abby Bustin
Medill Reports

This is the story of the Alvarez family, Yanina, Natasha and Guadalupe, who are bonded through their shared love of sport and horses. Yanina is the coach of the Argentine National Vaulting Team. Her daughters, Natasha, 18, and Guadalupe, 10, are members of the team who have been competing since they were 3 and 5, respectively. The sport, abbreviated Volteo, is the combination of vaulting and gymnastics on horseback. Coach Yani dreams of having Volteo recognized as an Olympic sport one day. 





NARRATION: Family. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some families share blood while others share passions.

But the Alvarez family shares both. For Yanina, Natasha and Guadalupe, love in volteo brings their family together.

The hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires cannot be felt out here.

Here in the outskirts of the city, is the quiet countryside of Moreno,where a team of young women are practicing, competing and winning.

Their sport is called volteo or vaulting, a combination of gymnastics and horseback riding.

NATASHA ALVAREZ: It is like doing gymnastics on the top of the horse while it’s moving in circles. And you can do it individually, in teams from six people or in pairs.

NARRATION: From the age of 3, girls begin training for worldwide competition. Practices start every day after school and go late into the night. But before they set foot in the arena, they have to prepare the horses. Learning new skills in this sport is a multistep process that doesn’t start on the horse. 

ALVAREZ: It takes time. Yeah. You need to prepare it on the floor. Then go to the barrel that simulates the horse, and then you go to the horse and walk. And then you try it when the horse is galloping. So it takes some steps.

NARRATION: Their carefully choreographed routines are judged on skill, precision, style, level of difficulty and more. And the harder the move, the scarier it can be. 

ALVAREZ: For me, I always try to just shut the scare. Three seconds, and I do it because otherwise your mind is going to — and then you will be afraid to try new things. So yeah.

NARRATION: International success is nothing new for this team. They finished in the top 10 at the last four world championships. But here in Argentina, not many people have heard of volteo. 

ALVAREZ: When people ask about my sport, it’s like “I do vaulting.” “Oh, what is that?” They never know. 

NARRATION: Natasha is 18 and started vaulting when she was 3. Guadalupe is 10 and began when she was 5. And she’s looking forward to her first international competition this year. 

Natasha and Guadalupe say the Argentine national team feels more like a family who has sleepovers, meal times and road trips together. And it just so happens their mother is the coach. 

And the girls chose to follow in her footsteps. 

Volteo wouldn’t be anything without the horses who, after a long hot practice, deserve a nice cool bath. After all, even the 1,500-pound teammates need to relax.

Competing internationally brings its own set of challenges. 

ALVAREZ: We rent the horse. I mean, you have only a few days to get along with the horse because you don’t know it, the horse. So it’s also difficult. And I need to know how this horse works. I mean, if this bothers him, if it’s OK if I do this to him, because it’s like a person.

NARRATION: Yanina has been watching her team compete for 25 years, and her emotions fade from being a coach to being a concerned mom every time she’s on the sidelines.  

Their passion for the sport makes them work even harder. And as the girls get bigger, so do their dreams. 

There are 136 nations participating in vaulting competitions all over the world. Through working with other Latin American countries, Yanina’s next goal is clear: help make volteo an Olympic sport.

And she thinks it’ll happen. 


Filmed in Buenos Aires with the support of local reporter Maggie Folcia. Julia O’Leary and Abby Bustin are video graduate students at Medill.