New Heights - Tassie's Trampoline Athletes

We were invited to catch up with some of the Tasmanian athletes heading to Japan for the World Trampoline Championships.
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November 19, 2019

When you start doing gymnastics at two years old like Tasmanian athlete Amber French, it's fair to say the sport runs in your blood.

I recently caught up with Amber and her brother Matthew to chat about their recent achievement having been selected to represent Australia in the upcoming World Age Trampoline Gymnastics Championships in Japan.

They join six other athletes and three officials from Tasmania competing in both the Age and Open later this year.

However, when I walked into the Kingborough Gymnastics Centre, I quickly realised that I had no idea what actually makes a good trampoline gymnast.

I wanted to write this article to not only highlight their achievement, but also to help those of us unfamiliar with trampolining to be more informed...

Three aspects to a good trampoline routine:

1. Height;
2. Difficulty; and
3. Performance.

"If someone was new to the sport, good height is one of the main aspects that you'd look for," Matthew informs me.

"The difficulty of the routine, so the harder the skills being performed, is also another important thing to keep in mind along with the overall performance."

"That's the visual aspects of the routine, like holding straight lines, keeping the toes pointed and the arms tight. They'd be the three main areas."

Why they love trampolining?

Amber is the first to jump in about why she loves her chosen sport.

"Bouncing on the trampoline, when you're going that high, it just gives you a rare sensation like you're flying."

"I do also like that you you don’t have to run much!"

"Seriously though, being that high and performing the skills, it’s a great feeling."

Whilst Matthew enjoys the challenging aspects of the sport, there's a different element responsible for his longevity and continued passion towards the sport.

"Most people say how cool it is to be able to do flips and jump high and all of that. For me though, it's about the friends made."

"I have a lot of friends from around Australia and even around the world - the community is actually great."

How do you approach trampolining?

Of particular interest to me was the difference in approach to both training and competition.

As a runner, warm-ups generally involve a similar base activity such as a jog, drills and stretches; but I wasn't sure if it was similar for trampolining.

"In principal it is still quite a general warm up and you do need to be prepared physically." Amber said.

"But trampolining is much more mental," Matthew jumps in. "Actually a lot of it, most of it, it begins in your head."

"A 100m race or sprint cycling, there is the really strong emphasis on the muscles. Trampolining doesn’t necessarily require that physical side to be as important."

"But it does demand a sense of aerial awareness and that means going through the routine in your head, trying to consolidate it mentally; and in turn doing that on the trampoline."

"Competition is incredibly nerve racking, so having the routine down pat is important," Amber continues.

"There can be a long wait before your actual time to compete - so you can’t over think things and it's about keeping balance."

World Championship Events

"The individual trampoline is the main event I compete in", Matthew says, "but at the World Championships, I'm also competing in the double-mini."

I had to be honest, I had no idea what the double-mini was...

"Trampoline is the main one, the one in the Olympics, ten skills where you try to stay in the middle and try not to move much."

"The double mini is one of the other events at the World Championships, where you do two skills across two smaller trampolines and it's where the 'stick it' phrase comes in. The landing becomes really important."

While not taking part in the double-mini, Amber is taking part in both the individual and synchronised events.

"The synchronised is where two people are on the main trampolines at the same time. The main points to watch are the difficulty of the routine, how high the pair and how closely together they are in the skills."

What's different about the international stage?

Despite their younger age and still being in the junior event, both athletes are well accomplished when competing at an international level, so I was curious to know the difference between competing here in Tasmanian versus and at an event like the World Championships.

"Oh, the audience is massive at an event like the World Championships."

"Also massive are the size of your butterflies in the stomach!"

"But to be honest, I still get nervous at state champs. The whole body generally shakes in the build up, so it's again important to work on that mental side of things." Matthew said.

While running has aspects like altitude training, I'm told the difference in training styles across the globe is more so based on training techniques and coaching.

"Although we were talking about the South African's the other day, who train outside, so that's something pretty different."

Oh, and what about the mat that keeps getting thrown in?

My most important question...

"Oh, that's the throw in mat."

"Primarily it's for safety. Because it's a concentration thing, if you lose yourself in a skill, or lose focus and have a mental slip, you can come down in an awkward position so it breaks your fall."

"It's also for mental support - when you are up there going for the big skills, knowing you have the mat there makes it a bit easier."

Conclusion

"It's a record for the state to have this many representing us on the world stage, which is a great achievement", said Kingborough coach Ben Kelly, who is also headed to Japan as the Australian double-mini coach.

Ben is also quick to jump in as to why Tasmania is a special place for athletes of all sports and abilities.

"Here in Tasmania, we're a close knit community, no matter what the sport - I think that's one of our strongest assets."

"We're a part of something special here. Although we don't have a huge population base, we run one of the most successful programs when it comes to the trampoline events."

"This is something that's been growing over the past few years, and it comes down to the internal competitiveness and the drive from the gymnasts themselves."

On behalf of the Tassie Athlete, we wish Damien Axelsen (27), Jacob Smith (22), Matthew French (19), Patrick Schluter (17), Amber French (16), Flynn Caro (16) and Callum O'Sullivan (16) - along with Eddy Rand (19) as a reserve gymnast for the team, and the officials, the best of luck in Japan.

Thanks for taking the time out for us to be able to share a small insight into your preparation.

Words and media by Dominic Anastasio, copyright The Tassie Athlete.


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