An OLYMPIC Sport

Olympic trampolining was the lifelong dream of a dude from Iowa named George Nissen, who along with his coach Larry Griswold is credited with inventing the first modern trampoline in the 1930s. They seemed like a pretty rad duo because Griswold's nickname was "The Diving Fool" and the first image that comes up of him on Google is one in which he's holding a pipe. Early on, it was more showmanship than athletics. For example, Nissen liked to jump on trampolines with kangaroos, as proved below by this cover of a book his daughter wrote. I have no idea why the kangaroo needed a trampoline, but I like it.


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After creating the trampoline, Nissen had dreams of it becoming an Olympic sport, but it was mostly used as a training tool for athletes and astronauts. The nascent sport was originally referred to as "Rebound Tumbling," since "Trampoline" was trademarked by Nissen (el trampolin is Spanish for "diving board") and the apparatus was officially called the rebound tumbler. The trampoline eventually lost its trademark, and the sport took its name, which I think was the right call.

The sport had grown to such heights that the first World Championships in 1964 were held in the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 1967, the United States officially recognized trampoline as a sport in its own right, not as just another discipline under the gymnastics umbrella. In 1969, Judi Ford won the Miss America pageant, performing a trampoline routine for her talent portion of the competition. Toward the end of the 20th century, Japan and China decided that since they were good at all the other gymnastics events, they might as well get into trampolining too.


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In 1994, both the International Gymnastics Federation and the International Trampolining Federation began a concerted effort to lobby the IOC, topped off by exhibition trampoline performances at the closing ceremony in Atlanta. A chance 1997 meeting in an airport lounge between trampolining's top lobbyist and the head of the Australian Olympic Committee sealed the deal. A month later, the IOC voted overwhelmingly to admit trampolining to the 2000 Olympic games. That same day, George Nissen purchased front row tickets to every session. He was there in Sydney, Australia to see his dream realized.


How's this sport work?

Trampoline (both Individual and Synchronised) is a sport reserved for the elite. It is a sport that represents liberty, flight and space. The numerous and complicated jumps and twists, carried out at about 8 meters high, require technical mastery, perfect body control and harmonious movements. As a basic for all kinds of training, trampoline is practised in every discipline that contains acrobatic elements. In its essence, Trampoline is a spectacular discipline that embodies courage, elegance, daring and youth.

Tumbling
Tumbling is characterised by the complex, swift and rhythmical succession of acrobatic jumps from hands to feet, feet to hands or even feet directly back onto feet in a matter of 6 seconds and on a mat 25 meters long.

Tumbling is a colourful sport that offers spectacular elements such as speed, rhythm and twists. A surprising cocktail of controlled virtuosity and energy.

Double Mini Trampoline
A sport that comes from Minitramp, DMT allows for more acrobatics. With a running jump, a gymnast performs an element on the apparatus, followed by another before landing on the mat. Top athletes perform spectacular double or triple summersaults with twist.

18 men and 18 women compete on a trampoline that is 4.28 meters by 2.4 meters. (The metric decimal stuff is so awkward because it's secretly an all-American 14 by 8 feet.) The event relies on judges for the results. Just like gymnastics, there are both difficulty and execution scores for each routine. According to the official Code of Points, competition works like this:

Round 1!
The first routine in the Qualifying consists of 10 different elements, each with a minimum of 270 degree somersault rotation. So 10 tricks, and each one needs to contain at least a three-quarter flip.

Round 2!
The second routine is a 10-element voluntary. Ten more tricks, to do whatever the fuck you want.

Final Round!
Only the top eight qualifiers, based on their combined scores, move on to the final round. Scores don't carry over from prelims. Finalists complete one voluntary routine. Then…someone wins. Hopefully no one dies.


World Champions:

Who's good at this? Mostly due to 40 years of contributions from trampoline pioneer Dave Ross (who first took an interest in the sport as a physics student, and taught himself to both perform on and build trampolines), the Canadians are always competitive. Defending silver medalist Jason Burnett, coached by Ross, currently holds the record for highest degree of difficulty performed successfully at 18.0. (By comparison, the gold medalist at the 2008 men's competition completed a degree of difficulty of 16.2) Russians and Ukrainians dominated the first two Olympics, but China is all up in trampoline now, which means in a few years we should all probably just stop trying. (See also: Diving.) After all our early glory the Americans are now a little behind, but this year won our first World Cup medal since 1996.


The very best part of Trampoline is the jargon. They have some cool words for moves. My three favorites:

Fliff – a double somersault with a twist. Short for "fliffis," naturally.

Triff - A twisting triple somersault. Like a fliff, just more of it. Presumably, the sport will get to quiffs soon enough.

Barani - A front flip with a half-twist, named after an Italian circus acrobat from the 19th century, of course.


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In its inaugural year as an Olympic event, the women's trampoline was won by Irina Karavaeva. AP