It’s day eight of the 2012 Games, and Olympic fever is in full force, featuring more than 10,000 athletes competing across 36 different sports. Need a cheat sheet? (We did, too.) We started with beach volleyball, hurdled over to the steeplechase and decathlon, and now we’re jumping into a sport that’s bound to drop a few jaws. Here are 15 fun facts about the highest flying gymnastics event around: Olympic trampoline. (Tune in on August 3-4 to see it live!).

Photo by Craig Maccubbin

Lady and the Tramp(oline) — The Need-to-Know

  1. It's a trapeze spin-off. While the first trampoline is rumored to have originated from the Eskimos, the apparatus we know today is credited to inventor George Nissen, who was inspired by the way trapeze artists performed tricks after bouncing onto their safety nets. Since then, the trampoline has been used as a training tool for astronauts (it leads to a better understanding of the body in space), tumblers, and other athletes.
  2. London feels like home. By 1964, trampoline grew in such popularity that the first ever Trampoline World Championships were held between 12 countries and televised at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Now, 48 years later, trampoline arrives full circle at the 2012 Olympics in London.
  3. There's a name game. The word trampoline is derived from the words “trampling” and “board.” Over time, it became “trampolining,” and finally “trampoline.”
  4. Photo:

    A kangaroo was once involved. In George Nissen’s quest to publicize his invention, he rented a kangaroo. After studying the strange marsupial, and (learning the hard way) how not to get kicked, Nissen found he could bounce the kangaroo on the trampoline if he jumped on the other end. In one perfect photographic moment, Nissen was able to hop on the trampoline and jump in tandem with the kangaroo.

  5. It's still the new kid on the block. Olympic trampoline is a relative newcomer on the Olympic program, making its debut at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. George Nissen, at age 86, was in attendance.
  6. One hundred springs should do the trick. In competition, there are two trampolines next to each other, 2 meters apart and just 10 meters away from the judging panel. The bed is woven from nylon strips that are less than 6 millimeters thick and is attached to a frame of more than 100 steel springs (now that’s what we call a fun bed to jump on).
  7. There's no more trampolining in the buff. Athletes who compete in trampoline must wear leotards and socks or gym shoes. But just think, early gymnasts used to perform without any clothes at all. (The word gymnastics comes from the Greek adjective, gymnos, meaning "naked").
  8. Fear of heights is not an option. Competitors are known to soar as high as 33 feet in the air (that’s about the length of a yellow school bus).
  9. It's all about the skills. Each competition for men and women has a qualifying round and a final round. In the qualification round, athletes perform a compulsory and an optional routine. The compulsory routine is predesigned and must contain a set of skills in a certain order, while the optional routines can contain any 10 recognized skills. The eight athletes with the best scores advance to the final round.
  10. There's lingo to learn. The most popular Olympic trampoline routines include three basic positions: tucked, piked, and straight. But there’s plenty of variety in between, including the Barani (a front somersault with a half-twist), the Cody (a backward somersault from the front) and the Quadriffis (any quadruple somersault from the front).
  11. Bloopers happen. In addition to four spotters, a large, thick mat, known as the safety platform, sits on the floor at each end of the trampoline. The safety platform is designed to cushion the impact if anyone falls from the trampoline — although from the looks of it, they could use a few more.
  12. Contact is key. In the Olympics, competition guidelines dictate that routines must include a combination of 10 contacts with the trampoline bed beginning and ending in one of the four landing positions: feet, front, back, or seat.
  13. Slip-ups will cost you. Athletes must begin and end their routine on their feet, and they will lose points for taking too long to start their routine, or for bigger mishaps such as landing on the frame of the trampoline (ouch!).
  14. Judging is no joke. Eleven judges watch the routines and award scores for height, technique, execution, continuous rhythm, body control, and everything from the angle of the limbs to the position of the feet must be as close to perfect as possible.
  15. A rebound can be a good thing. Trampoline fitness is all the rage now, from mini tramps to trampoline dodge ball. One study even suggests that rebound exercise could have cardiovascular benefits similar to running. Feeling inspired to try a few flips of your own? Try getting started at your local gymnastics center, or at various Sky High Sports locations nationwide.

To watch U.S.A. Olympic Trampoline hopefuls Savannah Vinsant and Steven Glucksteinon compete in London, tune in to NBC on August 3rd (men’s) and August 4th (women’s).

Which gymnastics event to you look forward to watching the most? Tell us in the comments below?

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