Eskimos and England
The origins of trampolining are uncertain. Many say that it started with the Eskimos who used to throw each other up into the air using a walrus skin. However, there is also evidence that people in England were tossed up into the air by a blanket. At the beginning of this century, it is certain that stage acts used a bouncing bed to amuse audiences in comic routines. The bouncing bed was actually a small trampoline covered in bedclothes.
Circus lore dictates that the first trampoline was invented by a trapeze artist called Du Trampolin. He developed the idea of the trapeze safety net being used for propulsion and as a landing device. He eventually reduced the net to a practical size for a separate performance.
In the 1930's, one man revolutionized the trampoline. George Nissen, USA, developed a trampoline in his garage to practice his diving and tumbling activities. He then felt he could entertain audiences and involved them in his demonstrations. This was the real beginning of the sport.
World War II saw the use of trampolines by the US Navy Flight School to give their pilots and navigators a practice in orientation. This practice was also used after the war by the American and Soviet space agencies to give astronauts experience in body positions during flight.
The USA quickly saw the physical benefits of the sport. They introduced it into the school physical education program as it was enjoyable but was a very good form of exercise. It was still being used to strengthen the fitness of their astronauts.
The Sport Develops
The European pioneers were Kurt Baechler of Switzerland and Ted Blake of England who worked with Nissen to introduce the trampoline in Europe. Baechler set up the ten move routine system and in the early days, when emphasis was put on difficulty not form classifying each move as an A,B or C like gymnastics. Each skill was given 1 mark if it was difficult enough. Now, the system is a lot different and differs greatly to gymnastics. Competitive trampolining took off in the early 60's and the first world championships were held in London in 1964, the champions being Dan Millman and Judy Wills Cline.
Soon after the first World Championship's, a meeting took place in Frankfurt, Germany between the prominent trampolinists of the world to see if they could set up an International Trampoline Federation. In 1965, in Twickenham, England, the federation was formally recognized as the governing body of the sport.
In 1969, the first European Championships were held won by Paul Luxon of England and Ute Czech of Germany. The year 1999 saw gymnastics and trampolining, tumbling and double-mini trampoline (DMT) merge as one committee, the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG). In 2000, trampolining became an Olympic event won by Aleksandr Moskalenko and Irina Karavaeva both of Russia.