Focused, zealous, and exceptional in all she does–Christie Jenkins is truly a class act. Australia’s top-ranking female trampolinist has all of the expected qualities of an Olympic athlete and more, but she also has the rare ability to make it look effortless. At only 22, Christie has the confidence and focus of someone beyond well beyond her years, and strives to be the best that she can be in all areas of her life.
Christie’s history with trampolines actually began before she was born. “My parents met on a trampoline,” she said, laughing. “I guess I was born for it!” Christie found her passion in life early and became involved with trampolines when she was just five years old. Her mother bought her a backyard trampoline, and enrolled her young daughter in lessons as a safety precaution. Her love for trampolining grew, and she entered her first event several years later. “You can begin competing when you are nine,” she explains. “Until then, you’re streamlined into the sport.” All of Christie’s preparations paid off—she competed and won first place in the Victoria state trampoline championships. She described the feeling of winning as “addicting”, and her victories fuelled her trampoline infatuation.
Like many athletes, Christie made a conscious decision to take her passion for trampolining to a higher level. She was only ten years old when she knew that she wanted to be an Olympic athlete one day. “After I had decided my goal, I became devoted to training to the point of obsession,” she said. School holidays became more days for instruction; summer camp was non-existent as she prepared her new routines for her next competition. Her entire life revolved around improving her trampoline skills. “When I was younger, I didn’t think it was a sacrifice. It was all I wanted to do,” she said. It was that attitude that transformed her from a backyard bouncer into a national champion.
Christie says that she thrives on the challenge of training daily and loves her interactions with her coaches and fellow athletes. Even as a full-time uni student, she is still very involved in trampoline competitions. She has recently returned from the World Games, where she won 10th place in the trampolining event, and won first place in the National Trampoline Championships in Adelaide within the past year.
Although Christie eventually achieved her goal, she has experienced some looming obstacles that emerged when she was still a budding athlete. “My family was always very supportive of me and what I wanted to do,” she said, “but my dad lost his job whenever I was 13. Because of the financial considerations, my family told me that they couldn’t afford my competitions anymore.” Most middle school students would have given up, but not Christie. She decided that she simply would have to work harder. “I washed dishes at a cake shop, of all places,” she said. “At that point, you realize that (being an athlete) really is the thing for you. Even at that age, I knew I had to go. I had to get money so I could compete.” Her dish-washing paid off, and she competed in the World Age Groups competition later that year.
Christie has also had to crash through some physical barriers in her quest for the Olympics. She cites the 2003 World Age Groups competition as one of her most difficult competitions to date. Three days before she was scheduled to leave for the competition, Christie tore three ligaments in her ankles. As if that was not enough, she was also struck by food poisoning the morning that she was scheduled to perform her new routine. Despite her taped, damaged ankle and her poisoned body, Christie went on to perform and place in the event.
When asked about how she mentally prepares for her trampoline performances, Christie smiles. “To combat fear, I use visualization strategies. They are incredible and have helped me so much,” she said. “I was a hard time practicing some things. When learning one skill, I would burst into tears. I went to a sport’s psychologist who worked with me and helped me overcome my fear.” She contends that learning the skills is not the hardest part of her sport because most trampoline tricks come from automatic muscle memory. “Thinking about it is the worst,” she said. “It’s better when you just do it!” Other mental frustrations that she has experienced include getting confused and forgetting tricks, but she declares that athletes must push through. “You don’t want to quit when there are problems,” she said.
Today, she has expanded her attentions to coaching other young trampolinists at the Cheltenham Youth Club in Melbourne. She coaches budding trampoline athletes, ranging from six years to seventeen years, and has even started coaching adults. “I love coaching. It’s so nice to see the next generation develop,” she said. “It has definitely made me a better athlete, and it’s very rewarding.” Christie also gives private lessons to future champions.
In addition to her unparalleled trampolining skills, she is also is a standout beach volleyball player at a national level. This year, Christie and her team will compete in the Indo-Pacific Championship in Japan and have their eyes set on the World Championship in France. She said that the trampoline and beach volleyball seasons work out very well, and that both sports keep her in shape.
As if coaching, competing for trampoline events, and balancing her volleyball requirements are not enough, Christie is also a top-notch student. She was the academic dux of her school, and is currently double majoring in economics and Chinese at Monash University in Melbourne. She will graduate next year and is excited to make a bigger impact on the world.
Christie is passionate about trampolines, and offers advice for other athletes who dream of being Olympic athletes. “For trampolining, there is no rush; you can take your time learning the skills because it’s a lifelong activity,” she said. “It’s a great sport. Parents can be assured that it’s a very safe sport with a low incidence of injury. Kids love it because it’s fun!”
Christie has a bright future in front of her, and her steely determination will make its mark, both on the trampoline and off of it. “I finish uni next year, and there are other things I want to learn,” she said. “Still, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing!”