Monday, August 18, 2008

Apple #335: Trampoline

Well, all those Olympic swimming events were very exciting, especially, of course, the events in which Michael Phelps won the gold medal. The number of new world records that have been set just in the swimming portion of these Olympics is pretty astonishing. I think Bob Costas said that, in this 2008 Olympics, the swimmers have set more new world records than were set in the previous two summer Olympics' swimming events combined.

Today was the last day for any swimming events, so now what? Sort of a ridiculous question, since there are so many events in the summer Olympics. But what shall we focus on now? Most people, I'm sure, will turn their attention to all the track and field events. But that's not where your Apple Lady's curiosity is headed. Instead, let's find out more about a relatively new event in the summer games: the trampoline.

This girl is enjoying the trampoline in her backyard.
(Photo from Super Tramp trampolines, which sells the above trampoline for BP 294.00)

  • There's one event for women and one for men.
  • The trampoline became an Olympic event at the 2000 games in Sydney.
  • The Russians dominated the event at Sydney, and have continued to provide strong trampoline competitors.
  • The Ukraine, Canada, Germany, and China have also won medals in the trampoline.
  • It's a bit strange that Americans haven't done better in this event because the trampoline has long history in the United States.

One trampolinist competing at the Olympic Games in Athens
(Photo from Eric Mirlis' blog about the Athens games)

Here's the history of the trampoline in general:
  • The first trampolines were made of animal skins that people held taut while someone jumped or was tossed by their friends.
  • There are pictures of the Eskimos (Aleut) doing this very thing with walrus skins, and while other ancient folks in China, Egypt, and Persia did the same thing, it's believed that the Eskimos were the first.
  • Firefighters used a "bouncing bed" to catch people who had to jump out of burning buildings.
  • Then a French trapeze artist, du Trampolin, designed the precursor of today's trampoline -- a much smaller version. Circuses would cover the trampoline with bedclothes and use it to perform various comedy routines.
  • In 1935, two Americans re-designed it for gymnastics. One of the Americans was named Larry Griswold (no relation to the Griswolds of the Chevy Chase Vacation movies). Larry Griswold was an assistant coach at the University of Iowa's gymnastics team. The other inventor, George Nissen, was a tumbler on the team.
  • Nissen refined his and Griswold's trampoline to make it portable, and as a gymnast who performed trampoline routines, he played a key role in making trampoline jumping as a competitive event.

George Nissen and a kangaroo, trying out his invention, the modern-day trampoline
(Photo from the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame)

  • During World War II, the U.S. Navy used the trampoline to train naval pilots and navigators how to control their bodies in the air and to help them get over a fear of falling. They also used the trampoline generally to aid in physical conditioning.
  • Trampolining saw its first world championship competition in 1964. The sport has grown (a bit slowly, it's true) in popularity around the world ever since.

Trampolines used in competition today are marked like this one, with a great big plus sign to indicate the center.
(Photo from the University of Bolton's news archive)

Things to watch for during the medal competitions:
  • The athletes have 10 bounces per routine. They try to make each of those 10 bounces as exciting and dynamic as possible, combining flips and twists and turns.
  • Because they want to combine as many skills as possible into each bounce, they want to be able to get as high off the trampoline as possible. So they can reach heights of 10 feet above the trampoline.

Most of the photos of trampoline competitions are like this one, with the athlete totally airborne in some posture, and the trampoline and floor nowhere in sight. This particular athlete is Anna Dogonadze of Georgia (former Soviet Union), who won the gold at Athens in 2004.
(Photo from The World Games)

  • Where a gymnast may fall off the balance beam or miss the high bar doing a complicated flip, a trampolinist may mis-time a bounce or catapult themselves awry so that on the descent they miss the trampoline entirely.
  • This is why the area around the trampoline is surrounded by thick and extensive mats.
  • Trampoliners execute various moves reminiscent of what gymnasts do, combining somersaults and flips and twists. But the names of some of these skills are especially enjoyable. Here's some of the terminology:
      • Adolph - forward somersault with 3-1/2 twists
      • Crash dive - somersault 3/4 complete, landing on the back
      • Fliffis - double somersault with a twist
      • Triffis - triple forward somersault with a twist
      • Quadriffis - quadruple somersault with a twist
      • Rudolph - forward somersault with 1-1/2 twists
      • Randolph - forward somersault with 2-1/2 twists
      • Miller - triple twisting double backward somersault
      • Miller plus - quadruple twisting double backward somersault
      • Lazy back 3/4 - backward somersault 3/4 complete, landing on the stomach

Here's a 7-second YouTube clip of Anatoli Dronov of Russia doing a quadriffis followed by a triffis -- though it looks to me like the second bounce has 4 turns in it.

  • The event is scored similarly to diving and gymnastics, in that an initial mark is given for a routine's difficulty, and a second, execution score is given for how well the competitor executes the routine with 0.5 points deducted for each error.
  • Men's events have difficulty ratings around 15.5 or 16.0, while the women's difficulty ratings are around 13.0 to 14.0.
  • So far, the Chinese and the Russians are in the lead after two rounds of qualifying.
  • The women's finals will be held on Monday the 18th, and the men's final will be on the 19th.

Okay, Daily Apple readers, what would you like to learn about next? Vote for your choice in the comments field of this entry (you need to allow pop-ups to post a comment).

  • The fork and how it changed the foods we eat, and the culture of manners and etiquette and all sorts of things
  • Another Olympic sport
  • Who Carly Simon was really referring to in the song "You're So Vain."

NBC Olympics, Trampoline main page (this site is a huge memory hog), Trampoline history
Jumping on trampoline, The History of Trampolines


  1. Carly Simon! Carly Simon! Though I have a suspicion she was singing about me.

  2. FORK!! Ha!

  3. FORK!! Ha!

    Really this is only one vote for fork. I thought it more brave to leave a name.

    Thanks for all the interesting reading! I'm cranky, but I love me some daily apple.


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