Durham's Kat Driscoll is jumping for trampoline Olympic gold
PUBLISHED: 00:43 06 February 2012 | UPDATED: 21:00 20 February 2013
Durham's Kat Driscoll hopes she'll be jumping for joy at the Olympics this year, as Steve Gibbs reports
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of North East Life
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A cold day in Durham isnt perhaps the best vantage point from which to assess the glorious sporting summer ahead of us, but it affords Katherine Driscoll one of the worlds best trampolinists and a key member of the Great Britain Olympic team the perfect view of her future.
Washingtons Apollo Trampoline Club counts the world number one-ranked gymnast among its members and thats where she will continue her preparations to justify the expectation which will follow her all the way to the Games in London.
Last year she won three silver medals at World Cup events in China and Japan, and a place in the World Championship Finals at Birmingham but Driscoll is well aware of the need to keep calm and carry on.
Im just trying to keep everything as normal as I can and to just treat it as though Im trying to qualify for any other competition, rather than think of it being the Olympics and suddenly find myself surrounded by lots of pressure.
Novembers World Championships gave her a taste of the atmosphere which will engulf the O2 Arena during the Olympic trampolining competition; an all-too-rare moment of limelight for a sport suffering an acute lack of exposure.
It was crazy how much press coverage we had in Birmingham, Kat said. Suddenly loads of people knew about the sport and what was happening. That was a good taster for what it will feel like at the Olympics, but on a much larger scale.
I hope London raises the profile of the sport. There is more pressure with the Olympics being in London, as everyone expects the British to do better, but I think it will help us too.
Yet she remains philosophical about the fact that although she is world number one she can walk around most cities in England without being recognised.
Its quite nice to be unknown, smiles the 26-year-old who lives in Durham. I can just get on with what Im doing and Ive got no outside pressure or influence. On the other hand, its a shame people dont know about the sport. It would be nice to find a happy medium.
One fundamental challenge remains in convincing people that an activity usually enjoyed by kids at the seaside or in a back garden is indeed a sport. Katherines response is bullish and highlights the athletic ability required to compete.
Whenever we get people coming into the sport, we say, get yourself on and have a go and then they suddenly realise how hard it is to jump even the tiniest bit off the trampoline and keep it under control.
If artistic gymnasts fall off the bars or the beam, they can get back on and start again, we cant. There are fine margins in our sport.
That was cruelly illustrated in the World Championships, when Kats progress to the final secured one place for Team GB in the Olympic competition. However, she failed to win a medal by deviating a matter of inches while approximately 30 feet in the air; knowing such small mistakes could result in serious injury, she aborted her routine.
Now, though, she has Aprils European Championships to look forward to, and the likely confirmation of her place at the Olympics. Great Britain has a strong history in the sport without yet reaching its pinnacle, and Kat recognises her part in the bigger picture.
Weve been relatively successful for years but nobody has made that step up to being a real contender. We havent yet had an Olympic finalist, so any medal would be good, but you obviously want to aim for the top. Id be quite happy with just making the final but why would you go into it hoping that youre going to be third best?
We had a great year in 2011. We won 11 medals during the World Cup series, and two at the World Championships. I think womens trampolining
in Great Britain is in great shape. The aim of competing in a home Olympics has driven us on that bit extra. We have a really good shot at a medal in 2012.
She took up the sport almost by accident, aged seven, at a sports centre near her childhood home in Kent, yet felt she had to move north to fulfil her ambitions in tandem with the English Institute of Sport at Gateshead International Stadium and her husband and coach, Gary Short.
I absolutely love it here, she said. I wouldnt want to be anywhere else. I have the freedom to do exactly what I want and I feel like Im leading my own life and making my own destiny.
Now Kat is also a role model to all junior trampolinists at the Apollo Club, and is helping them create a vibrant future for the sport.
Theyre brilliant. Its like a mini family and its a nice place to be when you know youve got complete support in every aspect of what youre doing.
When I was a junior, I was scared to talk to the seniors, they just werent interested, so as soon as I became a senior I made the effort to make sure the juniors felt they could come and talk to us. Now they know how it feels to be at a World Championships. They love having me around, to see how I train and learn what it takes, because its a completely different world. If Id carried on doing what I did as a junior I wouldnt have had this success as a senior.
That success could easily include a first Olympic medal for both Great Britain and Katherine Driscoll.
Weve had a taste of success, she added. And now Ive got a silver and a bronze medal, I need a gold to go with them!
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And dont miss next months North East Life where we will profile another of the regions stars hoping for glory at the Olympic Games.