Gymnastics Academy of Rockford honors owner with national win

The academy’s trampoline team is used to landing first place, but the title at nationals meant even more this year.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “This year, it means more than any other year we won,” said Gymnastics Academy of Rockford’s trampoline coach Ute Heger.

The academy’s trampoline team is used to landing first place, but this year, the title at nationals meant even more to the group of 61.

“With our owner passing away, we are now even more closer working together,” Heger said.

Owner Jim Aamodt died in May leaving behind a gymnastics legacy, the only coach in U.S. history to place athletes on national teams over five decades.

“I know he’s watching over us,” Heger said. “We dedicated nationals to him, and he watched over us and made sure we came out on top.”

Aamodt started the gym back in 1977 and dedicated his life to the sport ever since. The athletes are so talented that their coaches have faith they’re going to soar even before they get that final score.

“I know before we go,” Heger said.

How much work does it take to be a national champion?

“Behind the scenes, it’s a lot of work, and sometimes you don’t see it, but the kids go through a lot of stuff to earn it,” said tumbling coach Matthew Alex.

Some of the trampoline athletes train five days a week putting in hours of work to perfect their craft.

“We get them around five or six,” Alex said. “They leave at like 18 or longer, so we have them until 20 sometimes. It’s been a long process, but we try to get the discipline in the beginning.”

While some might think it would be difficult to get children to obey and persevere through tough practices, these young athletes love the gym and especially sharing memories with their friends and teammates.

“It’s not that hard,” said trampoline athlete Taelar Washington. “I mean if you’re dedicated and you really want to do it, then it’s not going to be as hard as you think it is.”

The team beat out 114 other teams, so it’s safe to say years of training is worth the gold at the end.

“I’ve done tumbling and trampoline my whole life, so I was very excited,” said trampoline athlete Rory Sweet. “I want to try to do it pretty much my whole life.”

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