High flyer ter­rific on the tram­po­line

Na­tional team jumper Nathan Shuh of Elmira has set his sights on the 2024 Sum­mer Olympics

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - JOSH BROWN Josh Brown is a Water­loo Re­gion­based re­porter fo­cus­ing on sports for the Record. Reach him via email: jbrown@there­cord.com

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.”

GYMCAN PHOTO

Tram­po­line gym­nast Nathan Shuh, fore­ground, com­petes at the 2019 world cham­pi­onships.

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