High flyer terrific on the trampoline
National team jumper Nathan Shuh of Elmira has set his sights on the 2024 Summer Olympics
ELMIRA — Elite trampoline athletes call it the flow state.
It’s that Zen moment during a routine where everything is seamless — jumps are high and centred in the middle of the trampoline and twists and turns, no matter how hard, are landing with ease.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Nathan Shuh. “
When the rhythm is right, you don’t even know what happened. There is a big adrenalin rush for sure.”
The Elmira native has been chasing the flow state from the moment he took his first bounce on the trampoline in his backyard.
“I was always on that thing,” the 22-year-old recalled. “It felt really natural for me.”
And he was always pushing the limit, regardless of the rules put in place by mom Corinne and dad Glenn.
“I did some crazy tumbles,” he said. “Even when I wasn’t supposed to.”
Now, he’s one of the country’s most promising trampoline prospects and a member of the senior national team.
If all goes right, he’ll be bouncing for Canada in the individual and/or synchro events at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“Even before I coached him he was a guy who had a lot of skills,” said his coach David Ross.
“He was trying routines that were a bit crazy but he was definitely showing that he was one of the players from quite early on. His progress has been steady and good.”
Shuh was a late-bloomer in the sport.
He started at Elmira’s Woolwich Gymnastics Club when he was 11 years old, but didn’t try trampoline seriously until attending a summer sports camp in Muskoka about four years later.
“I remember it was just a lot of fun,” he said.
“The coaches were really good and I felt like I was progressing really quickly.”
It was around that time that he also saw two-time Olympic gold medallist Rosie MacLennan hit the podium for Canada at the Rio Summer Games.
“I didn’t even know it was a competitive sport,” said the University of Toronto student. “That really got me interested.”
Shuh trained at Airborne Trampoline KW in Cambridge when he returned home from camp and within about a year competed at his first nationals, where he placed third. That experience was life changing.
“I finally felt like I had found the sport that I was meant to do,” he said.
And he found a kinship with fellow jumpers, who flocked to the sport with backgrounds in gymnastics and martial arts, among other things.
“I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach,” said Shuh. “The key in our sport is just to have an open mind for trying new things.”
Having no — or little — fear also helps.
After all, a good routine at the elite level consists of soaring heights, immense control and 10 moves with a high degree of difficulty. For Shuh, that means at least three to four triple flips.
To get there, he has spent untold hours — “I can’t count that high” — in the gym and on a trampoline, most recently under the guidance of Ross at Richmond Hill’s Skyriders Trampoline Place.
In the summer, he works as a high diver at Canada’s Wonderland where he takes the 20-metre plunge off the theme park’s signature mountain to entertain customers.
“It was terrifying the first time I did it to be honest,” he said. “Now, it just feels as natural as walking.”
Ironically, it’s back on the trampoline where the fear can set in. The pressure to take bigger risks has jumpers constantly aiming high.
“I have a lot of risk assessment,” said Shuh. “If I’m going for a new move I guess what I’m scared of is if I somehow bail out.”
Amazingly, Shuh has fallen off a trampoline just once and a coach was there to soften the blow with a crash mat.
Competitions are exhilarating but it’s the travel and friends that Shuh cherishes most on the trampoline circuit. Last year alone, he competed in Canada, Russia, Spain and Japan.
His Olympic qualification cycle doesn’t kick off for two years. Until then, it’s all about being consistent on the World Cup tour and at the world championships.
“I’ve only been doing this for seven years,” said Shuh. “I feel like now I finally know what I’m doing.”
Trampoline gymnast Nathan Shuh, foreground, competes at the 2019 world championships.