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“It was so cool,” she said. “I was telling Mom, ‘We were in the same room with that person!’”
She was usually in the same room competing against them in a gymnastics category known as trampoline and tumbling.
Sarah is the daughter of Lisa and Bill Gandy, who run the Texas Tumbling & Trampoline Institute. Also known as 3TI, the business has been in operation for 11 years, including 6 years at its current location at 4820 Lamar Ave.
Trampoline and tumbling falls under USA Gymnastics, along with such things as artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. Within trampoline and tumbling, there are four events: trampoline, synchronized trampoline, double mini trampoline and tumbling.So far, trampoline is the only one to make it to the Olympics, starting in 2000. Lisa expects to see tumbling added to the events next, with synchronized trampoline and double mini later on.
Sarah competed in all three trampoline events – and did well – but her own niche came in the double mini, placing highly in both national and international competitions, including third in the 2009 World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia. Until double mini becomes an Olympic sport, that’s as high as you can get.
“I don’t think people realize just how difficult this sport is and how much of an accomplishment that is,” Lisa said.
That comprehension probably won’t come until the United States has an Olympic medalist, she said. That day is getting closer, though. Savannah Vinsant of Newton, Texas, became the first U.S. trampolinist to qualify to the finals at an Olympic Games this year. She finished sixth. Sarah competed against her for several years, starting at age 9.
Sarah is now a junior at the University of Texas majoring in chemistry. She’s in the pre-med program and planning to become a doctor. She gave up trampoline when she went to college.
Her last competition was the Pan-American Championships in 2010. Sarah joined the UT dive team briefly before she injured her shoulder. She’s since decided to focus on her school work. But at one time, she had considered shooting for the Olympics.
“If double mini was in the Olympics, I definitely would have stayed on,” she said. “I knew my chances on trampoline were slimmer.”
Double mini trampoline involves a run of about 60 feet toward the first trampoline, which is inclined toward the floor. The gymnast launches from that to the second and then to the landing mat. In between are various flips and other “skills.”
Tumbling is on a long, narrow floor. The gymnast tumbles through multiple passes with a collection of handsprings, backflips and other maneuvers.
Trampoline and synchronized trampoline gymnasts perform on larger platforms. As the name suggests, athletes in the synchronized category perform the same skills in unison on separate trampolines.
“I think it’s hopefully on its way to being as big as artistic,” Sarah said.
It’s certainly a growing sport. National competition this year had more than 2,000 participants, where it had less than 1,000 when it first started.
Trampoline and tumbling offers a friendly sport for kids just getting into athletics. It’s not “dog eat dog” at lower levels like some others – although that competition does come in the higher echelons.
“We have a strong recreational program and a strong competitive program,” Lisa said. “We believe in positive reinforcement. We believe in building children up, building their self-esteem. There’s a lot of negative coaching out there. That’s not us.”
3TI also offers cheerleading, martial arts, pre-school, gymnastics, after school program. Depending on what the student wants, they offer both recreation and competition programs in martial arts and trampoline and tumbling.
This branch of gymnastics doesn’t require as much of a time investment as some other forms of gymnastics, Lisa said. Artistic gymnasts may spend 40 hours or more a week training. Tumbling generally takes less than 20. 3TI encourages students to have outside interests so they are exposed to more things. It helps them decide if gymnastics is what they really want, Lisa said.
“I love it. It’s my favorite sport ever. It’s really fun,” Sarah said. “In artistic, they all keep to themselves. When we go to our meets, we’re all one big family.”
Both Lisa and her husband Bill are both physical therapists. Bill is also a coach and Lisa a former gymnast and a member of the Texas Women’s University Athletic Hall of Fame. They are co-chairs of the education committee for trampoline and tumbling.
“It’s a very, very competitive program,” Lisa said. “Every year, we have kids that place well at nationals and could go on to Elite if they chose to.”