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Up and Down I Go

by Britt Chester

editor@yesweekly.com | @awfullybrittish

“My main goal is to go to the Olympics, hopefully 2016,” says Stewart Pritchard, the 19-year old trampoline and tumble gymnast from Greensboro who will be competing at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum this week. “More realistically, 2020,” he admits.

Pritchard has been jumping on a trampoline since he was two years of age. After his parents enrolled his brother in gymnastics due to issues with his inner ear relating to equilibrium, he took a liking to the sport and within three years was invited to join the team at Tumblebees Ultimate Gym. The rest, as they say, is history.

With 17 years on the trampoline, he’s already surpassed his own expectations and achieved a success he did not know was attainable. He recalls watching competitors in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics trials with awe, and admits now that it’s an honor to compete alongside of them.

“They’re good mentors to have,” he says. Now competing in the senior class, Pritchard finds himself sharing scoreboards with athletes whom he took notes from in years past.

His resume is also impressive. He placed first in the 2014 USA Gymnastics Championships in double-mini (an event where the athlete sprints toward a dual trampoline that has a slight incline on one side, performs a skill off the first hit and goes straight into another hit before launching to a landing) and sixth in the trampoline. Since 2013, in fact, he hasn’t placed outside of the top ten in 13 competitions.

But outside of the competitions, he has also found interest in both work and education areas that parallel his personal interest. He’ll be entering his sophomore year at High Point University this coming fall, although with his extra credits he may actually enter as a junior, and is seeking a science degree with a focus on biomechanics. He is also a coach at Tumblebees, working with the compulsory levels one through seven. Biomechanics, as Pritchard explains it, is the study of the human body and how the muscles, bones, cartilage and all other intricacies of the body work together. For someone who spends most of his time twisting and contorting his body in mid-air, it’s the perfect course of study to master both his chosen skill and education. It also helps in working with other athletes.

“As a coach, (biomechanics) is really useful,” he says. “It’s useful to plan your training regimens around what’s going to benefit the athlete the most.”

Once he finishes school, which if he keeps pace will be leading up to the 2020 Olympics, he wants to work in physical therapy and ultimately obtain his PhD in biomechanics.

This education has also given him the knowledge of how to train, especially in a sport that involves so much twisting of the body, which can cause severe muscle stress and tears. Injuries are something that comes with being an athlete, though.

In coming off of injuries, which Pritchard suffered this past March with a strained groin and other internal stresses, he knows what it’s like to train hard as well as rest hard.

“Anytime you are working out, you are basically hurting yourself,” he says, adding “”¦with micro-tears to your muscles and bones. If your body doesn’t have time to heal, then you’re tearing and tearing. Without rest, you are doing nothing”¦” But for Pritchard, there is no off-season like other seasonal sports. Aside from a brief break of competition during the winter, he’s training year-round at Tumblebees with coach Scott Lineberry, who he has worked with for more than 10 years. He said that since there is really nothing in the day-to-day life similar to trampoline, he must maintain a regimen that fits his schedule at school and provides for a personal life outside of the gym.

Those bouts of rest though have proved to be important for the young athlete. His competitive schedule runs from February through November, and with a strict weekly training regimen and balanced diet, the three winter months can be both necessary for sanity and for body rest. And although he is traveling the globe for various events, it’s a rare occasion he’s able to take in the culture and scenery of each location.

In his off time, Pritchard says that he likes to perfect skills learned over the course of the year, and perhaps begin to implement them in his routines. During the season, he says that learning new skills can sometimes hurt your training because so much practice goes into one routine. The routine he is planning for the upcoming championships, for instance, has been worked on for months and is what he calls a “skeleton routine.” This means that is has the elements that, if performed flawlessly, will score him into the finals.

“It’s awesome to have trampoline here in Greensboro,” Pritchard says. “All the people I’ve been talking to will finally be able to see it in action.” !

WANNA go?

The USA Gymnastics Championships runs June 23-28 at the Greensboro Coliseum. More information on specific schedules, ticketing, and events can be found at usagymchamps.com.

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