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SYDNEY 2000 SUMMER OLYMPICS

Aren't These the X Games?

September 23, 2000|DIANE PUCIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Your mother used to tell you to stop jumping on the bed. Now you can win an Olympic medal doing practically the same thing.

The lifeguard used to scream at you and your friends. Only one person on the diving board at a time. But come on up now, you and your friend. Win an Olympic medal, both of you.

Trampoline and synchronized diving, the newest Olympic sports, have begun.

On Friday at the SuperDome, gymnasts jumped really high on the trampoline. Up to 25 feet high. Then they did some tricks. Then they came down.

Trampolines used to be found in backyards all over. But people would fly off and get hurt. Lawsuits were filed. The sport kind of went away. It's back.

The first gold medalist is three-time world champion Irina Karavaeva of Russia. Oxana Tsyhuleva of Ukraine took the silver, and Karen Cockburn of Canada the bronze.

Anna Dogonadze of Germany had been leading the competition after qualifying rounds. She was the last competitor to go. And she went. Right off the trampoline and onto the big, protective cushion behind it. And that's what the paying crowd came for--a little danger.

The U.S. representative, 19-year-old Jennifer Parilla of Lake Forest, finished ninth and didn't make it into the finals. She expects to be back.

"I'm the youngest trampolinist here of the guys and girls," Parilla said. "I'll be back in 2004, and I think I'll be better prepared then."

In fact, many of the women were older than 30 and had children. It is a sport women can compete in for a long time.

George Nissen, the man who invented the trampoline, was on hand. Nissen, 86, still can do handsprings and even did a trick or two at team workouts here.

"I got the idea for the tramp from going to the circus with my brother," Nissen said. Nissen's first tramp was made of cut-up inner tubes with canvas over them. Now meet directors have to make sure the ceilings are high enough.

No one is claiming to have invented synchronized diving, but as in trampolining, it seems to be a sport unsuited to Americans.

The Russian team of Vera Ilina and Ioulia Pakhalina won the gold in the women's three-meter synchro, while Fu Mingxia and Guo Jingjing of China took silver over Ganna Sorokina and Olena Zhupina of Ukraine, the bronze medalists. The U.S. women didn't qualify for this event.

Russians also won the men's platform synchro. The team of Igor Loukachine and Dmitri Sautin won the first gold. Hu Jia and Tian Liang of China took the silver with Jan Hempel and Peter Waterfield of Germany winning bronze.

At least the U.S. had an entry. David Pichler and Mark Ruiz were seventh of the eight qualified teams.

"You'd always mess around at the end of practice with guys doing synchro stuff," Pichler said, "and then the coach would yell at you to stop. Who knew it would be in the Olympics?"

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