Usually, Anna Young tells people she’s a gymnast.
But when the 15-year-old from Jefferson explains the rest of the story — that she’s actually a trampolinist — it tends to pique everyone’s curiosity.
“When I do explain, they’re always like ‘wow, I didn’t even know that was a sport,’” Young said. “So it’s really cool to do something that not a lot of people know exists even.”
Trampolining (a special branch of gymnastics) is very much a sport, and Young isn’t just any trampolinist.
Far from it.
The Jefferson High School sophomore is an elite talent in the sport — very elite, actually — with dreams of Rio De Janeiro in 2016. Curently the nation’s fourth-ranked trampolinist, Young’s goal is to make it to the World’s competition in 2015 and ultimately to the Olympics in two years.
To that end, she is the first Georgian to qualify for the 26-member USTA elite national team, which allows her to enter an Olympic development program.
Young competed in three separate trials against the nation’s top trampolinists to earn this spot. She qualified, officially, after placing second at the most recent trial in Hammond, Ind.
It was an emotionally-draining moment for Young and her family.
“I was in tears following this last one,” said Young’s mother, Krisi Probert. “You’re just overcome by pride and nerves and everything that when it’s finished you just start crying.”
Young remembers the weight of that competition.
“I asked God, ‘If you want me to do this the rest of my life, show me,’” Young said. “And he did.”
News of Young’s triumph quickly spread around Jefferson High School, where she said she fields questions regularly.
“I walk by in the hallway and I hear, ‘There’s the Olympic star,’” she said. “It’s awesome. Even though I’m not on the Olympic team yet, they know that’s my goal.”
Because of her elevated status now, special training opportunities lie ahead. She’ll work with an Olympic coach in Illinois in June. Then in July, she’ll go to Hawaii to train with Olympic and world coaches there as well.
Young will also compete in special invitational qualifying events this fall and winter.
Her focus is on qualifying for Worlds competition next year, where her scores would then determine whether or not she makes the Olympic team.
Young, being on this stage now, is something of a fast-riser in the sport. In fact, she is the only 15-year-old ranked in the nation’s top 10 while most of her counterparts are either 18-or-19-years old.
“As far as potential, I see her going for everything she’s dreaming off,” said Tiffany Watt, Young’s coach who is based out of Auburn (Ga.) and is a member of the USTA National Elite Training staff.
Probert said her daughter’s success the past few years has really made her realize the talent she possesses — and her resiliency when rising to new levels of competition.
“I’ve really seen her blossom to where the second time she goes (back) and third time she goes (back), she just dominates the arena,” Probert said. “She’s really shown a great amount of tenacity.”
Young’s path to stardom in the sport wasn’t necessarily a direct one, though she remembers spending hours on the trampoline as a child.
“Me and my best friend, Kate, actually grew up on the trampoline,” Young said.
In fact, she said two would go directly home from school and make up routines, “before we even knew trampoline, the sport, even existed.”
But organized participation in the sport took a little while longer.
She actually began as a traditional gymnast at the age of 2, but as the years passed, Young decided it wasn’t for her. She then moved on to softball. Then around the age of 8, Young’s mother found Extreme Tumbling and Trampoline Center in Auburn where Young was introduced to trampolining as a sport.
“Right away, I noticed something in her that I knew was going to be great,” said Watt, who owns Extreme Tumbling and actually introduced the sport into Georgia in 2004. “We just took it and ran with it.”
Young, too, believed she had found her calling.
By the age of 11, she finished third in a national event, signaling to Young that she might be able to go far on the trampoline.
“That was a major shift in my confidence level and what I knew I could do,” Young said.
Her list of accomplishments is now quite lengthy. Young has won state title the last four years and took first on the trampoline and double mini at the 2013 Junior Olympics.
She also garnered the All-American Award at the Junior Olympics, an honor given to the male and female athletes with the highest scores from all competitions.
Young said she prefers trampolining over traditional gymnastics because it takes less of a toll on the body. But that’s certainly not to say there aren’t any injuries in a sport where competitors perform acrobatics at heights of nearly 20 feet. Young, who has sustained concussions from falls, remembers a double-back pike in particular that went awry.
“I flew off the trampoline and landed flat on my back on the concrete,” she said. “This was from maybe 12 feet in the air. I actually had a stress fracture in my back … Yeah, that was a little scary.”
Injuries are, of course, the tradeoff for the thrill of executing a routine. Young describes that experience.
“I just get this rush from it — just feeling the air as I go up and down, and the breaths that I take and being able to control it and knowing I’m in control when I step on the trampoline,” Young said. “It just the best feeling in the world, knowing I don’t have to depend on anyone else. It’s all me. It’s pretty awesome.”
These days, Young’s mother worries less about her safety on the trampoline and more about her daughter achieving the goals for which she’s devoted so much time. Watching videos of the higher-level trampolinists against which Young will compete makes her an anxious mom.
“When I see what she’s going to be doing next, that makes me really nervous,” Probert said.
To prepare for what lies ahead, Young now faces home schooling the next two years as she takes on a schedule of grueling eight-hour training days and lots of travel. Because tumbling is so rare around here, she’ll have to fly once a quarter to work for a month at a time with world and Olympic coaches, who will brush up her routine and give her assignments to practice.
But if Young’s work ethic is any indication, she should be prepared as anyone to handle these demands. Watt said Young is already in the gym all the time.
“She’s one of the most focused athletes I’ve had the privilege to work with,” Watt said. “I know she’s very big into her church, so the only requirement when I set her practice schedule is no Sundays. Every other day of the week she’s like, ‘I can be here from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.’”
Young admits she’ll miss her friends greatly but said putting in all the training is worth it.
“Once all this is over, me and my friends can go have fun and do whatever we want,” Young said. “For right now, they know that’s my goal and they’re supportive of that.”
Young’s vision beyond the Olympics in 2016 includes attending Hawaii-Pacific University, which is only one of two schools in the country to offer trampolining at an advanced level. She would also like to open her own gym one day to impart her knowledge to future trampolinists.
But, for right now, Young is chasing her dream.
“Just to know that I actually have a chance at the Olympics, saying those words, it’s just crazy to me,” Young said. “With the support from my friends and my family and with God right there by my side, I know I can do it.”
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