Utah Athletes Compete On Global Stage In Sport Many Haven’t Heard About

Nov 29, 2019, 11:07 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2019, 8:40 pm

PROVO, Utah — If you just take a glimpse, the scene at High Altitude Tumbling all seems very familiar with kids practicing on the balance beam, others trying to flip over a bar and a group on the floor being instructed on how to stretch.

But look past the obvious, over to the far side of the room, and wait for the confusion to set in.

“I just tell them I’m a gymnastics coach, isn’t that funny?” said Andy Bryner.

It’s a common refrain, especially among the athletes Bryner works with.

Simon Smith flips through the air after a bounce on the double mini at High Altitude in Provo.

“Yeah, I don’t even try,” said Simon Smith. “I just tell people I’m a gymnast.”

The explanations can get a little complex.

“I just say it’s like the floor in gymnastics, without all the dancing,” said athlete Ashley McDonald.

What they’re talking about has a lot in common with traditional gymnastics — but this is a different version, involving three separate events: tumbling, the trampoline and something called the
“double mini.”

Altogether, it’s called “trampoline and tumbling.”

“They’re like, ‘What? Like a trampoline that’s mini?'” said athlete Shelby Nobuhara, talking about the reactions to explaining what the double mini is. “They’re like, ‘What are you saying?'”

Sometimes, the questions keep coming.

“They’re like, ‘Awesome, when are you going to the Olympics?'” Nobuhara said. “And I’m like, ‘So, it’s not in the Olympics.'”

Shelby Nobuhara prepares to sprint towards the trampolines on a double mini run.

It’s so unknown, there are parts even the athletes themselves don’t fully understand.

“I mean, it doesn’t really make sense that trampoline is the only one that’s an Olympic sport,” Smith said.

In the face of constant questions, they’ve all found their own ways to cope.

“I’ll end up showing them a video,” Smith said.

“Yeah, I always have a video on my phone,” McDonald said.

Ashley McDonald and Andy Bryner watch as another athlete finishes tumbling.

“I’ll show videos,” Bryner said.

“I just show them a video and they’re still confused, but that’s okay,” Nobuhara said.

To those who aren’t a part of this acrobatic club, their ways may seem mysterious — but in the world of trampoline and tumbling, they’re basically a group of superstars.

“We have three athletes from High Altitude that are going to Tokyo to represent the USA at World Championships,” Bryner said.

Smith, McDonald and Nobuhara are all competing on the global stage as part of the Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships.

Smith and McDonald are competing in the main competition — Nobuhara, who’s a little younger at 15 years old, is competing in what’s called the “World Age Group Competition.”

For Smith, it’s his first attempt on such a big platform.

“I’m really excited,” he said.

For Nobuhara, it’s a chance to be modest for the second year in a row.

“I took first on double mini,” she said with a laugh, sheepishly explaining how she placed last time.

McDonald’s traveled before as well — for her, it’s a chance at redemption.

“Russia, I got food poisoning on the way there,” she said. “I didn’t do as well, I took 12th. I was hoping to medal since I took fourth the year before.”

Even their coach is going along, leading our country’s junior athletes at the World Age Groups.

“I’m actually coaching Team USA,” Bryner said. “So I’ll get to be on the floor with Shelby this year. It’ll be a cool experience.”

They may be involved in a sport that’s shrouded in obscurity but these athletes hope every victory they claim for themselves will push them all just a little closer to the spotlight.

“It doesn’t bug me, or like, annoy me to explain it, because I want this sport to be more known to the world,” Nobuhara said.

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Utah Athletes Compete On Global Stage In Sport Many Haven’t Heard About