Now, with training, children are learning to power tumble and jump on a trampoline and making Junior Olympic history.
The Dance, Flip and Twist team, coached by Lois Rase and Ginger Roney, brought back 13 medals this summer from the American Athletic Union Junior Olympics in Hampton, Va.
Rase has a studio in Wheelersburg and Roney has two studios, one in Jackson and one in Waverly.
“What they compete in is called power tumbling, and they compete in tumbling and trampoline,” Rase said. “It's not like your old acrobatic tricks.”
Power tumbling requires an elevated spring runway to propel themselves high while performing acrobatic maneuvers, flips and twists.
Tumbling and trampolines have been found on ancient drawings in Egypt, China and Persia, but the trampoline was not a competitive sport until after 1947, according to U.S.A. Gymnastics Online.
The first world championships weren't until 1964, and it wasn't until 2000 that the trampoline event made it into the Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
“They also compete in what's called ‘double mini,'” Rase said. “That's a long trampoline that's in two sections where you do a mount on the first section, then a skill in the middle and then a dismount on the other end.”
The double mini is similar in concept to springboard diving, using a mat instead of water, said U.S.A. Gymnastics. The double mini was added to national championships in 1978.
The students compete in all three events, tumbling, trampoline and the double mini.
The fall season for Dance, Flip and Twist begins on Sept. 2 and goes through nine months until the end of May.
“Then if we decide that we're going to Junior Olympics, which is held the last week of July, then we have to practice all summer,” Rase said.
The students practiced twice a week throughout the summer preparing for the Olympics. Children ages 4 to 19 are eligible to compete after they qualify in state competition first.
The AAU Junior Olympics began in 1967 with 523 competitors and only two sports. In 2000, about 13,000 athletes representing all 50 states, several U.S. Territories and U.S. military bases around the world participated.
Several categories are represented including beginners, novice, intermediate, sub-advanced and advanced.
“This year it wasn't as big as it has been, but there were as many as 20 to 30 kids in each of these groups,” Rase said.
First, a preliminary competition is judged and only the top 10 make it to finals. All 13 of the Dance, Flip and Twist team made it to finals.
“Even though some of them got 9th or 10th, they were still in the top 10 in the nation,” Rase said.
Rase has been teaching gymnastics for about 35 years but started power tumbling in 1982.
“I came to the conclusion that (gymnastics) was not that much fun for kids,” she said. “It's so painful and they have such a great time with this power tumbling. It's so much fun.”
Her team competes at least once a month throughout the year. One of the rules to compete in state competition is to compete in three invitationals.
State competition qualifies the students for the Junior Olympics.
AAU Junior Olympics also has baseball, basketball, football, soccer, jump rope, Karate and track, among 25 different sports.
Carson Roney, 8, of Beaver, and Patrick Sloan, 10, of Wheelersburg, both had three gold medals in each category.
Brittany Blakeman, 15, of Beaver, competed in double mini and trampoline. She won a bronze medal in the double mini and a fourth place medal on the trampoline. It was her first time to compete in the Junior Olympics.
“I felt comfortable with it and plan to go again,” Blakeman said. “I prefer the double mini, it seems easier.”
Nathan McLaughlin, 7, of Wheelersburg, brought back a gold medal for the double mini trampoline and a silver medal each for floor tumbling and trampoline.
His whole family goes to the Junior Olympics to see him compete since he started competing last year. He is the son of Eric and Stephanie McLaughlin, of Wheelersburg, and has an older brother, Jeremy.
“We went last year to New Orleans and we felt we were really fortunate to see the pre-Katrina New Orleans,” said his father. “He actually got into the tumbling to keep him active and make him stronger and more agile.”
Then Rase told his parents that Nathan had a lot of talent and he really enjoys it, so he has stayed with the sport.
He has developed relationships with other boys who compete, one in Columbus and one in Oklahoma.
“He is learning sportsmanship and it's a blessing to be a part of it,” his father said. “We had a great time.”
Morgan Diles, 10, of Wheelersburg, received a silver medal in the double mini trampoline. Jaisa Maloney, 10, of South Webster, and McKenzie Morris, 8, of Piketon, both brought back a bronze in the double mini trampoline.
“Most of these kids are pretty dedicated,” Rase said. “They have to be. It's a fun thing, but it does take a certain amount of work and a certain amount of dedication.”
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org.