An interview with Trampoline legend, Greg Roe

Greg Roe is a trampoline legend. He has competed at the international level, and has world-class form. But more than anything, the thing that differentiates Greg over and above World Championship and Olympic medalist trampolinists, is his pioneering work in consistently learning ridiculously hard, never-been-done-before trampoline skills. With the Australian National Gymnastics Championships having just finished, and Greg recently touring Australia with Nitro Circus, I thought now was a great time to have a chat to this trampoline icon to get his thoughts on Trampolining.

So Greg, what was it that made you focus on trampoline as your sport of choice, over and above the other gym sports?

Greg: It was the freedom I had in the air. On the trampoline I can fly and feel the sensation of free fall with no restraints. I loved gymnastics because of the challenge and the intense training but I loved trampoline because when I jump, time stands still. Sometimes I will just be doing needles for an hour contemplating philosophies. The rhythm of the trampoline puts me at ease. Then, I’ll switch gears and throw a few quad twisting triple fronts into the pit!

People often say that they learn a lot of life lessons and skills from sport. Can you tell us what life lessons and skills you have learned from trampolining?

Greg: First and foremost I learned the value of hard work. I was expected to train and perform, to fall down and get back up and never quit. It taught me that to get even a small accomplishment, like a provincial level skill, I had to work for months just to perfect that one skill. There are no shortcuts in training. Even then, I would need to refine it until I was ready to show the world. People say I am naturally talented, but they have not seen me train. I’m the guy that has to put in the extra 1,000 reps compared to everyone else. What set me apart in the later years was that work ethic and ability to never give up, no matter what. It taught me to not be scared of failure, as I failed on a daily basis more than anyone else I knew. This was because I wanted to try the skills my coaches advised me not to. I was told all my life that I would never amount to anything; from the orphanage to my first gymnastics club, to my own family who never thought I could make a career out of my passion. My life seems to amount to proving them wrong, which I have done every step of the way!

Sports in general taught me not to be afraid of the public image. I remember breaking my nose on floor competing my first ever double back at a local qualifier. My nose hurt a lot obviously and is still crooked to this day. Tears were coming down my face but I knew I had to keep going. And I did. At the time I didn’t realize how important this life lessons was. Looking back now, I realize those are the moments that make me who I am today.

You used to train at Skyriders Trampoline Place, home of Olympic medalists Rosie Maclennan (gold), Jason Burnett (silver), and Karen Cockburn (bronze). SkyridersTrampoline Place also boasts one of the most famous trampoline coaches in the world – Dave Ross. What was it like training at Skyriders with these Olympians and Dave Ross?

Greg: When I was young I trained on the “recreational” side of the gym, separated from Rosie, Jason, Karen, Dave and the others. They never minded me much because I was just the “crazy rec kid” for the majority of my time there. But they didn’t know that I watched every one of their routines with hunger in my eyes to be like them. I chased Jason for many years in my own head and after years of falling and getting back up again I started to gain their respect. I showed them I could tango with the best of them as the “Crazy Kid” started pulling in medals. They all had competition experience in trampoline I could never match but in the gym, where my passion was, we were equals in my eyes in terms of spatial awareness and skill development.

Can you tell us a little about the gravity jump, where you jump off a crane around 25 stories high, and do all sorts of somersaults into an airbag below?

Gravity Jump was an idea I had for a while but it took me all the way to Austria with a company called BAGJUMP Action Sports before I could actually do it. I started literally at 5 meters and built my way up to 60 meters (200 feet). I did this for a few reasons. One was that I was getting bored with training. Trampolines could only get me so high and I was tapping out of big tricks to do with the current equipment. I also wanted to show people that mechanics are mechanics. They do not change from tumbling to trampoline to parkour, etc. This was a way to show people that I could take what I knew, adapt it to a new thing no one else has done and to prove them wrong, again. I also do shows such as America’s Got Talent in 2015, music festivals and exhibitions, showcasing my flips and tricks onto the airbag from up to 55 meters. At public events, we allow the public to jump into the airbag from either a 5 or 8 meter platform, so they can feel the adrenaline rush in a safe environment.

Everyone loves it and we have a few events in Canada this summer after our Nitro Circus tour ends here in Australia.

Who in your opinion, is the favourite to win the trampolining this year at the Olympics?

Greg: Dong Dong or Gao Lei would be my pick for the men. Generally we see athletes go for a cleaner routine that they know is more consistent and I know Dong Dong is consistent and cleaner then Gao, but Gao has the height and push for difficulty. If he decides to go all out and nails that 'once in a life time' routine then he will be the new Olympic Champion. On the women's side, after having watched the Chinese train and compete for many years, either He Wenna or Huang Shanshan will take the gold. It will be an interesting, but I do not expect any major deviation from previous Olympics. The Japanese and Russian athletes will be pushing hard as well and should put on a great show. I hope to see 6 triples in this Olympics.

Any words of advice for all of the gymnasts out there, trying to make it in what they do?!

Greg: Yes …. never take no for an answer! People will tell you a lot of things. The sad truth is that most of it is a lie, and the sadder truth is that most people do not even know they are lying. One major thing I learned in psychology is that people will lie to themselves to make themselves feel better about their failures. Most people, unknowingly project these defence mechanisms onto other people. They think they are “helping” by trying to prevent you from making a mistake but that is just them defending their own failures. Do not listen to people that do not have good control over their barriers. Just smile, nod and walk away. I remember the lines of a great U2 song that goes something like, “Knowing your own tricks is the hardest thing you will ever do”. It is true. Focus on a goal, find the people that have the vision you do and impress them.

I’ll end this with a story that just happened two days ago…. While in the hotel at our show in Sydney I noticed that J W Thompson, one of the biggest marketing firms in the world had an office right next door. I had an hour before show but I decided to just walk in with no appointment. Everyone was working and I simply started asking everyone, “Who do I talk to about representation”. They all gawked at me and finally pointed me to the manager of the firm. I walked right over, introduced myself, told her what I wanted and why I was worth it. She was a bit surprised but impressed. I now have a call scheduled with some of her associates. That is how you become successful, not just by grades, or medals. It is all about being confident, having a great resume and showing people you have a vision and are willing to work hard for it.

Thank you so much for your time Greg, good luck with your businesses, and we hope to see more videos of you, and a visit to Australia someday soon!

Greg: Thanks so much for having me. I feel honoured that you asked to hear my perspective on our sport.

Words and interview by Sam Sheppard

America’s Got Talent

Cliff Diving Italy

Gravity Jump Promotional Video

Check out more of Greg's incredible videos:

World’s Best Trampoline Tricks

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Trampoline Compilations