Publication date : 05/12/2018
The remarkable rise of Sweden’s pioneering Lina Sjoeberg neatly illustrates the significant steps Trampoline has taken in 2018 with new events and new names shining on the world stage.
The 25-year-old Lina Sjoeberg is used to making waves. In 2015 she became the first Swedish female gymnast to win a world championship Double Mini-trampoline (DMT) medal, taking bronze in Odense, Denmark. In 2016 she was the first female Swede to be crowned European DMT champion and, this year, the Uppsala native rose to world champion status.
But not only is Sjoeberg a pioneer for her beloved sport, she is also a poster girl for the all-pervading skill set Gymnastics teaches you – having spent her adolescence dreaming of Artistic glory.
“It is nice to show it is possible to change,” laughed the woman who was a member of the Swedish Women’s Artistic Gymnastics national team 2004-2010, before switching disciplines. “I think I found my home in Trampoline.
“Only five months after I started, I won my first DMT national (title) and my first year I was only one point from making the worlds.”
Sjoeberg’s ever-upwards trajectory continued through 2015 and 2016 – “when I won the Europeans in 2016 I started to think, ‘OK, I am really going to win worlds one day’,” – but then like many champions she had to negotiate some bumps in the road.
“I felt like 2017 was going to be my year but I wasn’t quite there,” she said. “I guess I didn’t have the nerves. I just made too many mistakes.”
Sjoeberg finished third in the 2017 world championships and that deflating run continued in early 2018 when she failed to defend her European title in Baku in April, again ending third. But with the holy grail of the world championships in Saint Petersburg on the horizon, something clicked.
“Going to Russia I felt like, ‘OK, I have messed up enough times now. I am just going to go out there and show the world that this is what I am supposed to do’,” she said.
“I had never competed with my (half out pike) Miller before, so I was learning it right up until the week before I left and I think that might have been good for me. I could focus more on what I was supposed to do instead of thinking, ‘Oh, so many people are watching me, I have to do well’.”
Relaxed but focused, Sjoeberg smashed it, scoring a huge 72.100 points.
Trampoline goes global
Melania Rodriguez’s world championship silver in Saint Petersburg – Spain’s first medal in DMT – shows that the sport is rapidly broadening its horizons. It is the kind of result, along with Synchro pair Hikaru Mori and Megu Uyama claiming Japan’s first women’s Trampoline World Championships title, which delights Sjoeberg.
“Trampoline has definitely become more popular,” she enthused. “In Sweden people have seen what we can do and there is a lot more interest. Now people know what I am talking about when I explain what I do.”
Fabulous Fangfang keeps on flying
While Saint Petersburg 2018 marked a historic first for Sjoeberg and others, it was normal service for the extraordinary tumbler, Jia Fangfang. The 24-year-old swept to a fifth individual world championship gold. Since her first triumph at the 2011 edition, the Chinese superstar has also picked up four team titles and won the World Games twice.
Intriguingly, Jia’s attention is now shifting towards Tokyo 2020 as she attempts to compete in Artistic Gymnastics on Floor Exercise at the Olympic Games. The woman who has so successfully moved in the opposite direction is a big fan of the intention.
“I would tell her to go for it,” Sjoeberg said. “The changing of sport is a great motivation, it is totally possible. She is a really good tumbler.”
Gao and Dong push sport ever higher
Jia’s compatriots Gao Lei and Dong Dong continue to provide one of the most compelling narratives in Gymnastics.
The pair, whose airborne feats stunned audiences across the world, have between them won six of the past eight world championships, the past three Asian Games titles and the 2012 Olympic Games gold. Gao, who had a combined airtime of 18.255 seconds at the world championships, took the honours in Saint Petersburg, relegating teammate and mentor Dong into the silver medal position.
But this was only after London 2012 Olympic champion Dong claimed the bragging rights at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia – his third successive title at the event.
New All-around team event delights gymnasts
The pair did combine to great effect in the inaugural All-around team competition in Saint Petersburg. It features four events for both men and women – Individual, Synchro, Tumbling and DMT – and was won by China with Portugal second and Canada third.
Despite the perhaps predictable nature of the outcome, the competition received a hearty thumbs-up from the gymnasts.
“I really liked it, getting all the disciplines into the arena at the same time,” Sjoeberg said. “The concept is really nice and it is going to start to bring more countries to all the disciplines.”
All eyes now turn to 2019 with even the very best having to revaluate their aims and objectives.
“I am struggling to make some new goals,” Sjoeberg admitted with a smile. “I always thought if I become a world champion (in DMT) then I would focus more on Trampoline. But I feel I am not done with DMT quite yet.”