Utah’s own Simon Smith headed to Portugal for Trampoline World Cup
Jul 5, 2023, 7:32 AM
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
OREM — One week before the Trampoline World Cup in Coimbra, Portugal, Simon Smith is ready for his latest practice session at Utah Valley Trampoline and Tumbling in Orem.
He stretches, does a few backflips and then, donning a USA Gymnastics shirt, focuses on the task ahead — two mini trampolines, one flat and one angled, that when connected form the basis of an uncommon, but exhilarating, sport. Double mini.
“(Athletes) run at it and try to perform different skills (in midair), try to hit their feet on the landing zone,” Andy Bryner, Smith’s coach of 10 years, said. “The harder the tricks, the more points they can acquire.”
Smith, who’s competed in double mini since 2017, knows the drill well. Like an Olympic sprinter, he bolts toward the first part of the trampoline, angled downward, and contorts his body at warp speed as he sails through the air. In perfect control, he bounces off the trampoline’s flat section for one more boost before sticking the landing.
The whole routine is over in a matter of seconds but takes years of practice to execute. That’s why Smith is one of 40 athletes representing Team USA at the Trampoline World Cup, where he will compete in double mini, beginning July 7.
Dangerous? Definitely, but an elite athlete like Smith has more control than one thinks.
“I can know within 3 inches of where I’m going to land on the trampoline,” he said.
Smith doesn’t know why he fell in love with double mini, but ever since picking it up six years ago, his progress has been extraordinary. It has brought him all over the world, including Tokyo for the 2019 World Championships. Smith will be headed to Birmingham, England, for the 2023 World Championships this fall.
“I’m definitely a lot more competitive with myself, rather than others,” he said. “I’m definitely motivated by what other people do, but I’ve always wanted to push myself and push my own limits to see what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Bryner, who’s put multiple athletes on USA National Teams during his coaching career, describes Smith as determined and focused. He remembers the day they first met.
“He started in just a little rec class,” Bryner said. “He had come from competing (in) artistic gymnastics, so he was looking for something else. And he didn’t want to compete at all, he just wanted to do something for fun.”
That didn’t last long. Smith, now 21, soon began competing in trampoline before a motorcycle accident broke his femur in half as a teenager. But he fought back from injury and qualified for this year’s Trampoline World Cup despite a two-year hiatus in North Dakota serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I came back a lot stronger than I was before and a little bit more mature, mentally,” Smith said. “I understand my body a bit better, and so because of that I was able to progress and pick up pretty quick when I came home.”
After his return in November, Smith scored well enough at several major competitions throughout the country to qualify for the World Cup.
He was also named to the U.S. trampoline and tumbling Senior National Team on June 25, along with four other Utahns — Ruben Padilla (Bluffdale), Kaden Brown (Herriman), Shelby Nobuhara (Mapleton) and Dylan Kline (Syracuse). All of them are headed to the World Cup. Additionally, Annie Hansen (Hooper), Brooklyn Jolley (West Haven), Eli Nilson (Draper) and Asher Little (Provo) made the Junior National Team.
Now that Smith has qualified for Portugal, the hard part, he is just “excited to go and have fun.”
However, his goal is to finish on the podium. To give himself the best chance of succeeding, Smith always considers three things before each run. He thinks about the angle of his first jump, the fact that no double mini feels exactly the same and, lastly, the position of his arms.
“I need to make sure that my arms reach, like all the way up into my trick, otherwise I’ll drop my chest too fast, and I’ll find myself in a very bad spot,” he said.
But no matter how Smith does in Portugal, the fact that he qualified is an accomplishment in itself. The United States has “the strongest pool of male double mini athletes in the world,” according to Bryner, who couldn’t be prouder of his protege.
“It’s exciting to see someone work so hard for something and then for it to finally pay off and then to feel such joy for it.”
Smith left for Coimbra on Monday, and Bryner will be there cheering him on.
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