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China the team to beat in trampoline gymnastics at Rio Olympics

Trampoline gymnastics only became an Olympic sport in 2000, but the Chinese have been front-runners at every Games.

While gymnastics has appeared on the Olympic stage since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, trampoline gymnastics only recently found its way into Olympic competition by becoming an official Olympic event at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games. Since the trampoline has been widely used both as a training mechanism for athletes and as a hobby for adolescents, how exactly did the backyard phenomenon make its way onto the Olympic stage?

The “trampoline as a sport” trend began in 1936 when American diver and gymnast George Nissen invented the portable trampoline in order to train acrobatic athletes. Trampoline maintained momentum, and in the 1960s, the sport, well, became a sport. The first Trampoline World Championships were held in 1964, and three years later, trampoline became a recognizable sport in the United States. Trampoline joined USA Gymnastics in 1999, and one year later, traveled to Sydney to join rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics to provide viewers with another spectacular gymnastics event to watch.

Trampoline gymnastics is a stunning event in which competitors must match skill with creativity. Gymnasts must contemplate what is required of them and what will set their routine apart from that of their contenders all the while avoiding faltering even in the slightest. They must twist and flip while soaring to pinnacles of eight meters. The sport is as mental as it is physical, and as physical as it is technical.

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Both gold medalists from the London Olympics—China’s Dong Dong and Canada’s Rosie MacLennan—will be back to defend their titles in Rio. In the sport’s four Olympic appearances, China and Russia have been adept for the men, as China has medaled six times, and Russia four. For the women, Canada and China have been proficient, as the two countries have four medals apiece.

The U.S. qualified two Olympic spots at the Rio test event in April, with Nicole Ahsinger and Logan Dooley earning spots on Team USA at the USA Gymnastics Championships in June.

In Olympic competition, 16 men and 16 women separately compete for gold. The competition includes two rounds, with the first round serving as qualification for the final round. In the qualification round, gymnasts perform a compulsory routine and a voluntary routine. The compulsory routine contains a set of skills that the gymnasts must perform in set order. The voluntary routine is a tad more fun, as gymnasts can perform any 10 skills as long as they are recognizable. The summed score of the compulsory and voluntary rounds ultimately decides which eight gymnasts advance to the final. The score from the qualification round is not counted towards the score of the final round. The final round is voluntary, and the routine is scored on difficulty, execution, flight time and penalties.

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Athletes to watch


Logan Dooley, United States

An alternate in the 2008 and ’12 Games, Dooley has finally earned the chance to represent the United States. At 28 years old, the Olympian is looking to use his previous Olympic training experience to place himself on the podium. To earn a spot in Rio, Dooley had to surpass teammate and 2012 Olympian Steven Gluckstein, which the Olympic hopeful was able to do after having earned three Olympic bonus points before competing against Gluckstein. The Olympian has medaled eight times in U.S. trampoline competition, and is a six-time world championships team member. Also a previous All-American college diver, Dooley is coached by Robert Null.

Dong Dong, China

China’s Dong Dong is the one that the other 15 are jumping after in Rio. The 27-year-old has competed in two Olympics. He won bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games, and jumped the ranks by winning gold at the 2012 London Games. In London, Dong impressed by finishing first, just ahead of Dmitry Ushakov in the qualification round. In the final round, Dong literally soared after executing dizzying, unimaginable moves in an approximate 18-second routine, which earned him a score of 62.990. He received 17.800 points for difficulty and zero points for penalties. The reigning gold medalist has also successfully competed in several major championships, and has won individual gold three times at Worlds. The trampoline marvel has not showed any signs of slowing, and whether Dong is dethroned or not, his performances will certainly be worth watching.

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Uladzislau Hancharou, Belarus

Uladzislau Hancharou comes into the Olympics with several major medals under his belt. Coached by Olga Vlasova, Hancharou has been bouncing on the trampoline since he was six years old, and at age 20, Hancharou won an individual gold medal at the 2014 European Championships. Most notably, the Belarusian contributed two of the four medals won by the Belarusian team at the 2014 World Trampoline Gymnastics Championships, with one of those medals being an individual bronze, which Hancharou won behind Chinese intimidator Dong Dong. Though Hancharou is aiming for silver, the 20-year-old will be an exciting spectacle, as it could be the Belarusian who stops China from receiving its third-straight gold in trampoline.


Nicole Ahsinger, United States

A disciple of two-time Olympian Dmitri Poliaroush, 18-year-old Nicole Ahsinger edged out fellow teammate, roommate and longtime pal Shaylee Dunavin for a spot in Rio. Though Ahsinger placed second behind Dunavin at the national championships, her two Olympic selection points from the Elite Challenge situated her past Dunavin. Ahsinger was not projected to make the Olympics, though. Teammate Charlotte Drury was the Olympic hopeful heading into the national championships; however, Drury sustained a foot injury one day prior to the national championships, which changed young Ahsinger’s narrative. Ahsinger is just the seventh U.S. Youth Olympian to qualify for this summer’s Games. She represented the U.S. in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. Having only made her first debut in international competition just three years ago, Ahsinger has continuously improved since then. The youngin’ will surely be fun to watch.

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Rosannagh “Rosie” MacLennan, Canada

Reining gold medalist Rosannagh MacLennan returns to the Olympic stage this summer. At the 2012 London Games, the 27-year-old set a personal best after having received a score of 57.305 for her final routine, earning her a gold medal, which was Canada’s only gold medal during those Games. She finished in front of Chinese trampoline gymnasts He Wenna, the 2008 Beijing gold medalist, and Huang Shanshan. The 28-year-old is coached by David Ross, and has been competing on the international stage since she was 11. Despite the fact that MacLennan sustained a concussion prior to last summer’s Pan Am Games, the gold medalist has bounced back and is a promising contender for the formidable Chinese.

He Wenna, China

He Wenna is not dissimilar to teammate Dong Dong. Nicknamed the “Trampoline Princess,” He has also competed in two Olympics. He, 27, sequestered the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. At the London Games four years later, He failed to reclaim gold after falling during her final routine, but she did manage to earn a bronze medal. He enters the Rio Games with one individual gold medal and three team gold medals from Worlds. Although He has sustained several injuries since the 2012 Olympics, the Trampoline Princess’s long-standing proficiency makes her a must-watch. 

Gold-medal dates

Men—Aug. 12

Women—Aug. 14

Trampoline technicalities

Competitors are allowed to jump on the trampoline for one minute in order to reach the required height and achieve stability before starting their routine.

Trampoline gymnasts must end their routine in upright position with both their feet on the trampoline bed. They must remain upright and stable for at least three seconds.

Trampoline gymnasts cannot perform barefoot; they must wear trampoline-friendly socks or shoes. 

There is no time limit for routines.