Trampoline program introduces kids to aerials 

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, sports don't get much more technical than freestyle aerials.

The top athletes in the world are doing three complete flips and four or five rotations off the jumps, flying 15 metres in the air before landing on a steep slope. Judges scrutinize everything, every twist and turn, the takeoff, the landing, whether knees were locked together or might have parted slightly on that fourth rotation.

It's also a sport that Canada has thrived at, despite the fact that the grass roots level is almost non-existent in most provinces, including B.C.

To get more kids into the sport, the B.C. Freestyle Ski Association is working with Whistler Gymnastics Club to create a provincial-level aerials program. In January Whistler Gymnastics is launching a twice-a-week aerials program that will eventually transition in the summer from the gym to the water ramps on Blackcomb.

There was room for up to six athletes in the Whistler program and so far five boys between the ages of 12 and 14 have signed up.

Louise Stack, a competitive trampolinist from Australia who joined the Whistler Gymnastics Club as a coach this year, will lead the program.

"They're all skiers, which is kind of rare," said Stack of her aerialists-in-training. "Usually kids do really well in trampoline, diving or gymnastics and they have to teach them to ski, while we're taking a different approach with five kids who know how to ski but now have to learn the trampoline technique."

The program will include skill development, twists and flips, with athletes learning to link different tricks together while building up to double flips. Form is incredibly important. "Legs together, pointed toes, no flailing around and that sort of thing," said Stack.

The program will kick it up another notch next winter when Whistler Gymnastics moves into its new facility, which includes in-ground trampolines and bungee ropes that allow athletes to practice flips and twists in the air.

Originally the freestyle aerials program was not supposed to take place until the move into a new facility, but some trampoline time was open on the club's schedule and a decision was made to start the program early.

Other candidates for the program, including a female gymnast, may join the program in the summer when it moves to the water ramps. Stack knows first-hand how hard it can be to make that transition.

"I found it hard to ski down because you're skiing on this plastic snow, but when you land on the water with the bubbles going it's quite soft and once you get the hang of it it's pretty easy to do," she said.

Whistler Gymnastics is still taking applications for the program, with the first session running from January to June. Call 604-902-FLIP (3547) for more information.




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