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Flipping out

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Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:48 am | Updated: 10:33 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The 2008 Summer Olympics will open Aug. 8 in Beijing, China, but the Casillas family aren't planning to attend.

Instead, Johnny Casillas, 14, said they are planning for the 2012 Summer Olympics in Paris. That's if Johnny cooperates.

He said family members are planning trips to France now to watch him compete. If he performs as well as he did at the 2008 Trampoline and Tumbling Junior Olympics National Championships in Kansas City, Mo., July 1-6, they could probably book their tickets now.

The Centennial High School freshman placed first in his flight - 15 and over, Level 6 - with a 51.10 score, which initially shocked him.

"At first I didn't believe I won the flight," Johnny Casillas said. "I thought maybe they were just talking about state, then I said 'oh, wow, this is out of the nation.'"

Johnny Casillas's mother, Anna Casillas, also said it was a surprise to her as well.

"There was one tumbling pass where we thoguh he went up too high and might fall," she said. "But he landed it perfectly."

Anna Casillas said watching his older sister perform as a cheerleader at Centennial fueled his passion for the sport. But it really clicked with him when he watched gymnasts perform in the trampoline event in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Four years later, Johnny Casillas enrolled at Oasis Gymnastics - 8643 W. Kelton Lane, Ste 110 in Peoria - in January and seven months later he was winning his first championship.

Originally, Johnny Casillas tried regular gymnastics at Oasis, but his mom said he didn't enjoy the apparatuses, but really took to tumbling and the trampoline. Once they found that out, Johnny began training three times per week, but told his mom that wasn't enough, so he began practicing on the family trampoline in their Peoria back yard.

"His coach - Chelsea Carey - said he's a natural," said Anna Casillas. "It was probably one of the most exciting experiences for him at the National Championships, and for our family to watch him compete."

For now, his short range goal is to improve on the trampoline, an event he calls his least favorite. Long range, he'd like to excel at both trampoline and tumbling.

"When I get up (on the trampoline) now, I have a fear of falling off, so I need to work on that and get those thoughts out of my head."

Tumbling wasn't Johnny's only event in Kanas City. He finished eighth in his flight (Level 8) in trampoline, and earned an 11th in the double mini-trampoline.

A double mini-trampoline is smaller than a regulation competition trampoline. It has a sloped end and a flat bed. The gymnasts run up and jump on to the sloping end and then jump on to the flat part before dismounting on to a mat. Skills are performed during the jumps or as they dismount.

In double mini competition, the gymnast must make two kinds of passes. In one, the athlete performs one skill in the jump from the sloping end to the flat bed and a second skill as they dismount from the flat bed to the landing mat. In the second, the athlete does a straight jump from the sloping end to the flat bed to gain height, performs one skill landing back on the flat bed and then a second skill as they dismount. These skills are similar to those performed on a regular trampoline except that there is movement laterally along the trampoline. The form and difficulty are judged in a similar manner as for trampolining but there are additional deductions for failing to land cleanly or landing outside a designated area on the mat.

Johnny said he performed so well at the Junior Olympics because he knew his grandfather, who died recently, was watching.

"He was a big inspiration for me," he said. "I try to do everything with him in mind. That's what I did at the nationals. I wanted to do my best because I knew he was watching."

Approximately 1,800 trampoline and tumbling athletes participated from around the country. At the national championships, athletes performed routines in power tumbling, double mini-trampoline as well as individualized and synchronized trampoline.

Also competing from Oasis Gymnastics at the Junior Olympic National Championships was Danica Yarnell, 16, of Peoria, who earned a pair of top-10 finishes.

Yarnell, 16, placed fourth in the double mini-trampoline and ninth in the trampoline. Yarnell plans to compete as a junior elite next year and will try to qualify for the world championships in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]