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Posted on 16 October 2012

What did you do this summer?

I went aerials water ramp training at the Utah Olympic Park!! There’s only one word to describe it – Amazing!!

This is what I have been working for over the past year. I started at an aerials Talent-ID day, which my diving coach nominated me for. I was lucky to be selected to go forward on a training programme last summer where I did diving, trampoline, fitness, cycling and lots of other sports before learning to ski last winter, which was something I hadn’t had the chance to try before and it was great. So after getting my exams over this summer I was heading for the water ramps.

This is my blog from the training camp, from my first attempt off the mini ramp to my last good back layout, having fun with front tucks, back tucks and back pike on the way!

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Training Day 1

Today was my first day training at the Utah Olympic Park… and I loved every minute of it! I was nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect and it’s not every day that you get the chance to try an extreme sport for the first time, especially as I do diving and trampoline and only learnt to ski this winter. I went to Rossendale ski slope a few times before leaving for Utah to ski on the dry slope but the real thing is a whole lot bigger. When I saw the ramps for the first time I was terrified by how huge they were and I couldn’t imagine the thought of jumping off them! The coaches were great and started me off on the mini ramp (which I was very relieved about) and once I got the hang of it – it’s not as easy as it looks – they sent me up to the singles ramp. If I thought the ramps looked high before, then they felt ten times higher from the top! I surprised myself that I wasn’t that scared my first time… I guess I was excited and concentrating on not landing on my face! I spent the last half of the day learning front flips, which I found to be harder than ever doing it on a trampoline or a diving board, but I was able to get the hang of it in the end. I enjoyed the speed and the feeling you get as you are launched off the end of the ramp – All in all it was an amazing day!

Training Day 2

It was my second day jumping today and I’ve discovered how horrible it is to walk up all those millions of steps to the top of the ramp repeatedly all day. They seem never ending and I can feel I’m going to have solid thighs by the end, especially having to climb them in ski boots and while carrying skis. Today I met Lydia Lassila who is the current Olympic gold medallist. She was really nice to take an interest in what I was doing and encourage me, saying she could remember when she first started. I was just trying to take it all in… having so many aerialists around me in training who have been to the Olympics and World Cups. They all support the beginners and made me feel welcome at the ramps. Today I did lots more front flips and I feel like they’re getting easier and all of my nervousness of skiing down the ramps has gone. Towards the end I was allowed to try back tucks and I loved the feeling of being launched into the air. I’m loving this sport more and more with every jump.

Training Day 3

Jumping was great today, I got in 18 front flips and 14 back tucks as well as trampolining and I’m gaining confidence. The coaches are friendly, helpful and they explain everything in a way I can understand, but I’ve also discovered how much it hurts to land on my face; I couldn’t feel it for a few minutes but it was worth the pain. I carried on and logged lots more jumps and thinking about it – its got to be the best reason ever to do the jump right every time! Tonight I was excited to go to a show at the Utah Olympic Park in memory of Jeret ‘Speedy’ Peterson, the silver medallist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. I was completely amazed by the aerialists who were jumping in the show, so many top guys and girls, including Olympians past and present. It was incredible to see them jumping triples and in formation with each other. I saw Scotty Bahrke do the ‘hurricane’, which consists of three somersaults with 5 twists – It was Speedy’s signature jump – amazing! I just can’t describe it… it’s the biggest jump in the world! And I was there!

I admired their courage, and hope that one day I might be even half as good as them.

Training Day 4

Today I did mainly back tucks and I think the coaches seem happy with how I am doing, managing a good set of jumps in each session, even I can see I’m making progress. I’m getting into the daily routine now – mornings start with a warm up and stretch session, then trampoline, then the jump session ending with warm down and stretching – the afternoon session is the same but I can be with a different group of people. Now that I am not scared any more I can simply enjoy the adrenaline that I feel going off the jump. There’s no feeling like it and it must be the nearest thing to flying that you can get. The UOP was busy today and so I wasn’t able to do as many jumps as usual but on the up side, the sunny weather kept me from getting cold while I waited in a dripping wetsuit at the top of the steps. I also went on to learn back pikes near the end of the day and I just tried to apply the same movements of a back tuck. It worked and all in all it was a good day. 🙂

Training Day 5

I had a bit of a disastrous start today 🙁 skiing is new to me and I’m not used to wearing ski boots all day. I’ve been suffering from ‘shin-bang’ for the past few days and it was so painful wearing ski boots and walking up steps. The coaches made the decision to stop me jumping in order to let my shins recover. I wanted to carry on jumping but they said no, so that was it for the day. It meant I could ice them frequently for the rest of the day; so a trip to the supermarket was in order to get frozen peas and ‘Quark’ which I’m told is a Swiss remedy – (to me it was like thick Greek yogurt, but it worked – so don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!). After pasting my shins with quark and applying plenty of ice, they’re feeling a lot better so I’m determined I’ll be ok to jump tomorrow.

Training Day 6

Good news! It no longer hurts as much to jump and even better news is that I also learnt how to do a back lay today! I managed twenty-five of them in the session time I had, and I think the trampolining before the sessions is a good warm up for me and helping me adapt my technique. This feels like the hardest thing I’ve done so far because it feels different from anything I’ve done in the past. At first you feel you have little control of the rotation, as you have to ride the ramp and it takes you round. The take-off is key, but I’m sure it will be something I can get better at before I go home.

Training Day 7

Today I did only back lays all day, which I was pleased about because it is what I want to work on the most. The coaches keep telling me over and over how important it is to stay locked out and keep everything straight and although that seems easy in theory, the force impacted on you off the ramp makes it harder than it looks and is definitely something I’m struggling with but working hard at. I did seem to be improving towards the end of the day but with only two more training days left it’s worrying me that some of my jumps under-rotate and some over-rotate. I’m determined I will get this jump right before I have to go home.

Training Day 8

It’s been a more positive day today as it really started to make sense. All the things I have been told are coming together. I think my technique and movements are getting better, and my landings definitely are. I think all my jumps are getting more consistent at last! I’ve also started getting to know the people who have been jumping with me over the past eight days and I’m really starting to love the place.

Some of the athletes here are training moguls or freeski as well as aerials, but we all work together. I have also had coaching sessions from some of the US team athletes, which has been amazing.

Training Day 9

It was my last day of jumping today and I am so sad to be leaving. I finished on some good jumps and it was a good day, but I know I am going to miss it so much when I have to go home back to ordinary life. What I have achieved during my time here is great and I have met some amazing people who I hope to meet again. I returned my borrowed skis and ski boots and felt so sad that my time here is over. It has been the most amazing place I’ve ever experienced and I can honestly say I have fallen in love with the sport. To my new aerials friends and the coaches… I will be back next summer but for longer!

Thanks to coaches Sharlee, Hans and Matt for all your support.

Throughout my stay, we had three days of training and then one day off. On that day we had chance to go cycling or hiking as the national park is full of great trails. One of the days we spent the day at the Olympic park and I did the high ropes challenge, the zip wire ride and even went down the bobsleigh course – we did it all!

So what happens next? This winter I will be continuing with dry training (fitness, diving and trampoline as well as other sports), but I will be going to snow to do a lot more skiing and I hope to get the chance to go jump training and see an aerials completion on snow.

Emily Russell

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