Power Tumbling: Controlled Explosion

Kristof Willerton at the Tumbling World Championships, November 20, 2011
Kristof Willerton of Great Britain competes during the 28th Trampoline and Tumbling World Championships

Power tumbling is amazing! You don’t have to know anything about the sport to see how incredibly athletic and powerful these tumblers are. Just click on the above image and watch the video!

Tumbling is a discipline within gymnastics. In a floor exercise at an international competition like the Olympics, you would see a series of tumbles and transition routines over 70 to 90 seconds performed on a floor 12×12 meters. The floor exercise goes fast and slow, and can be both artistic and beautiful.

Power tumbling is all about speed, and yes, power.

The track for power tumbling is over 25 meters long, with a long runway just to get to top speed. And over the years, this tumbling mat has undergone technical tweaks to provide a bit of bounce: mats with skis underneath, mats with springs, and today, mats supported by fiber-glass rods. Once the tumblers hit top speed on these long bouncy tracks, their momentum and athleticism blast them off on a series of cartwheels, somersaults and handsprings that are performed in jaw-dropping succession.

Tumbling was once an Olympic Sport. It premiered and ended with the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The United States swept the medals, with 17-year old Rowland Wolfe taking gold. Unfortunately, only 4 athletes contended the tumbling competition. Poor István Pelle of Hungary finished fourth, missing a medal despite the 75% chance of doing so. With the poor turnout, tumbling never made it back to the Olympics as an official sport, although it did make appearances as a demonstration sport at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and the Sydney Games in 2000.

Here is a video of Wolfe doing a few tumbling routines on the grass – pretty impressive! Nice to imagine what he could have done on the mats today.