Olympic Arcana: Jumping On Trampoline Gymnastics And Dong Dong’s Push For Gold

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Perhaps no Olympic sport better encapsulates the sheer joy — and terror — of childhood than Trampoline Gymnastics. Bouncing as high as spring-loaded fiber will allow seems so liberating, so whimsical — until an errant flight path lands you in an emergency room or nearly ends your Major League Baseball career. Yet trampolines continue to be bought and people continue to bounce with abandon, because freedom ain’t free.

Trampoline Gymnastics became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Games. And now, thanks to PASPA’s repeal, Coloradans can bet on the event. It was, and is, a rowdy children’s pastime recast as a supremely athletic competition. Regardless of how you feel about its Olympic legitimacy, if nothing else, Trampoline Gymnastics provide a healthy reminder that sports should be fun — even when contested at an elite level.

How it’s played

According to the official Tokyo 2020 website, the Olympic trampoline “consists of a rectangular ‘bed’ made from a woven synthetic fabric and measuring 4.28m x 2.14m. The bed is attached to a frame with steel springs so that its recoil action propels performers high into the air.” (Remember when you used to jump up and down on your parents’ bed? That was pretty dang dangerous, too.)

Jumpers are graded on the basis of 10 skills that are evaluated for both execution and difficulty, performing multiple flips out of three airborne positions: the tuck, the pike, and the layout (or straight). Key criteria include “horizontal displacement” — how closely competitors land to the point on the trampoline where they lifted off from — and “time of flight,” i.e., the actual amount of time each trampolinist spends in the air during a given routine. All in all, it’s a lot like springboard diving — if the board were a lot springier and the divers could bounce on water.

Who could win

On the women’s side, Canadian Rosie MacLennan is the two-time defending Olympic champion. But she’s somewhat long in the tooth compared to her stiffest competition, and DraftKings has her at +650 to win gold and +140 to medal. Instead, the sportsbook anticipates a three-way battle for gold pitting Japan’s Hikaru Mori (+175/-270) against Chinese teammates Liu Lingling (+250/-180) and Zhu Xueying (+320/-135).

Dong Dong is the MacLennan of the men’s draw. The 32-year-old won gold in London in 2012, rounding out the Olympic color spectrum by earning bronze in his hometown of Beijing in 2008 and silver in Rio in 2016.

But in Tokyo, DraftKings Sportsbook Director Johnny Avello says, “We have two guys we believe are better than him.”

Indeed, winning a second gold in the event will be a stretch for Dong, as he’s DraftKings’ third pick (+400 to win gold, -105 to medal) behind defending Olympic champion Uladzislau Hancharou (+125/-220) of Belarus and Dong’s Chinese teammate, Gao Lei (+150/-400). Still, it would be foolhardy to expect anything less than a rock-solid effort from the ever-steady Dong, who could cement his legacy with the performance of a lifetime.

When the finals are

The women’s final is on Friday, July 30, at 2:50 p.m. Tokyo time, while the men’s final will be contested at the same time of day on Saturday, July 31.

Mike Seely has written about horse racing for The Daily Racing Form and America’s Best Racing, and has contributed pieces on a multitude of topics to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He can be reached on Twitter (@mdseely) or via email at mseely@bettercollective.com.

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