Baton twirling on an international stage

There aren’t many people who can throw a baton in the air, do a backhand spring and catch it with the grace of a dancer. Well, Julie Haffner from the CERN Press Office can. Baton twirling started as her hobby but soon became a passion - leading her team to win the International Baton Twirling Cup. 


Gex Twirling Club performing their winning number at the 2013 International Baton Twirling Cup. (Image: Véronique Bellour).

There is no telling when or where people will find their passion. For Julie Haffner, it was when she followed her cousin to a baton twirling class at the age of 10. Since that fortuitous day, she has committed herself to the sport and competed on international stages.

Very close to rhythmic gymnastics, baton twirling requires skilful coordination and teamwork. Julie’s performances combine the precision of baton manipulation, the grace of a dancer and the strength of a gymnast. The first year in which she competed with the Gex Twirling Club, her team managed to reach the final of the French Championship. This taste of success motivated Julie to continue with the sport: “You have to learn to fight and gain a competitive spirit.”

In 2005, her team came first at the French Championship and third at the European Baton Twirling Cup. She attributes the success to her cohesive team: “You are always with the same girls, so it’s like a family.” They do the same choreography for a year, so they have to be persistent and work together.

Gex Twirling Club in first place at the Baton Twirling International Cup 11 August 2013. (Image: Véronique Bellour).

This past summer, Julie and her team came sixth at the French Championship. This could have hurt their chances for the International Cup selections, but, in the end, they were selected by the French judges on the basis of video footage. Teams were judged on their synchronisation, showmanship and technical execution, and despite having come sixth, Julie’s team was chosen along with two others to represent France at the International Cup. That was a good decision, because not only did they beat the two other French teams, they also won first place. 

This was a highlight of her baton-twirling career. She had the rare opportunity to represent her country knowing that she had worked hard to achieve that honour: “It’s more important to be happy with what you have done than where you come in the competition.”

Julie continues to train in baton twirling and to compete with her team. At the age of 22, she is one of the oldest girls, and trains with others as young as 15: “It’s really hard to stop! People who find their passion are really lucky.”

When asked how twirling baton and competing at an international level have shaped who she is, Julie claims that she wouldn’t be the same without it: “Thanks to this sport, I have learned that you really need to fight for what you want.”

by Stephanie McClellan