The sky’s the limit in Trampoline, so it is a small wonder that more difficult elements are being attempted all the time, as ever-improved trampolines push back the boundaries of what is possible. But heavy Difficulty is not the key to success: Judges place heavy emphasis on Execution and Horizontal Displacement (a measurement of how far from the center of the Trampoline the gymnast is bouncing), in order to assure athletes perform their routines safely.
American Wayne Miller, who won World Trampoline titles in 1966 and 1970, invented an element that was so far ahead of its time the best are still performing it half a century later. The “Miller” is a double backwards salto with three twists, while the “Miller plus” is a souped up version with four twists instead of three. The best gymnasts cap their routines with the laid-out version of this graceful skill.
The risky quadruple somersault represents the cutting edge of Trampoline Gymnastics. Difficult to control and even harder to work into a routine where a gymnast cannot slow or stop their momentum, most elite gymnasts feel risking this element is not worth the reward. While a very few gymnasts train the skill, it remains nearly unheard of in international competition - for now.
With the arrival of the discipline under the Olympic rings in Sydney in 2000, equipment manufacturers have developed better performing Trampolines, which has led athletes to perform new, harder elements in turn. The most apparent among the men has been the triple front salto, performed in the pike position, with 1.5 twists at the end.
To do it, a gymnast launches themselves skyward in a series of front flips and spins like a top on the descent. When a gymnast begins their exercise with this element, judges know they are dealing with a serious contender.
The best men are capable of combining triple somersaults in the piked or tucked positions, often with a half twist at the beginning or the end. The Chinese team as a whole has made triple variations their calling card, and it is because of their ability to do them well that they have become so dominant. Of the 10 elements that make up the difficulty score of an exercise, doing five or six triples in a routine puts the gymnast in orbit of the medal podium.
On the women’s side, the best competitors, including 2012 Olympic champion Rosannagh MacLennan (CAN), are capable of producing routines with three triple saltos.
Time of flight was added in 2010 as one of the three scoring components in Trampoline, along with Difficulty and Execution. A laser placed at the height of the trampoline bed calculates the time the gymnast spends in the air during an exercise, which is transformed into a point total, rounded to the thousandth of a second.
Since a gymnast who travels from side to side on the Trampoline spends less time in the air, the introduction of this scoring criteria thus transformed the discipline, obliging gymnasts to seek new strategies in constructing routines.
Time of flight has been known to make a big difference on the World level: When 2012 Olympic champion Dong Dong and compatriot Tu Xiao received the same Difficulty and Execution scores in finals at the 2013 Worlds, Dong’s superior Time of flight - a mere 0.215 seconds - gave him the gold.