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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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TRAMPOLINING made its Olympic debut in Sydney 12 years ago.

And since then, the newest of the three gymnastic disciplines has amazed audiences, with awe-inspiring displays of acrobatic excellence, and athletes springing to heights of up to 10 metres.

Growing up with a large trampoline in my back garden, I regularly spent summer holidays practicing somersaults and learning new tricks.

However, that was more than 10 years ago, and heading to Park Leisure Centre, for a trampolining session I had no idea if my body would still be flexible enough to show off my skills.

Met by instructor Sadie Balfour, I was helped onto the trampoline and began the lesson by learning how to keep my balance while jumping.

I was advised to bend my knees on landing to absorb some of the shock and was relieved to discover I hadn’t forgotten the basics.

Admitting that this was not my first time on a trampoline, Sadie set me the challenge of demonstrating a straddle jump (a star jump in the air).

With a photographer poised to get a shot of my attempt, we started to draw the attention of passers by.

And thinking they were set to witness a well rehearsed spectacle my half-hearted attempt at a star jump offered the growing audience a complete anti-climax.

But despite the disappointed looks on some faces, Sadie was impressed.

Admittedly I did sway forward slightly but I managed to stay on my feet and brought my legs into a much higher star than either of us had expected.

Confidence boosted, I was eager to try a few more tricks and we moved on to perfecting a seat drop.

Requiring you to land in a seated position with your legs straight and together before pushing yourself back up to standing, a successful seat drop calls for good co-ordination.

Being far more bouncy than my family’s trampoline, it took me a few attempts to master standing up without wobbling or falling forward.

Having caught the bouncing bug I asked Sadie to teach me something requiring greater skill, with the intention of going home and impressing my sisters.

Hearing that a front landing was a bit more daring I was quick to take up the challenge. A front landing is exactly as the name implies – you start in an upright position, and land on your stomach.

Making it look easy Sadie, successfully completed the move a couple of times before allowing me to have a go myself.

Completely misjudging how high I should jump, the impact of my landing saw me fly forward, looking as though I was attempting to dive off the end of the trampoline rather than land on it.

Keen to redeem myself, I requested practicing a forward somersault – a trick I used to be quite good at.

Beginning by jumping at the far side of the trampoline I braced myself for the flip.

Despite looking outwardly confident, inside I was quaking and it took me a number of false starts until I built up the confidence to throw myself forward.

Landing on my bum, my somersault was far from graceful but I had managed it and that was enough for me.

Trampolining since the age of 12, Sadie decided to start teaching the sport last year.

She said: “I have always liked trampolining because of the thrill of jumping so high and not knowing what I am going to land on.

“I’m a real adrenaline junkie and love anything that gets my stomach flipping over.”

Taking part for fun, Sadie also enjoys the health benefits it brings.

“Jumping on a trampoline is a lot more tiring than you think,” she said.

“You have to use every muscle in your body to keep everything tight; it’s really tiring and very good for you.

“If you trampoline regularly you will definitely see a difference in your stomach, bum and legs.”

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