Trampoline Gymnast Jumps to the Top

Undergrad Aims to Represent U.S. at Paris Olympics

Jessica Stevens ’24 starts with one bounce. Two. Three. Then suddenly, she rockets into a triple flip, two stories in the air, and springs back up into a dizzying series of tucks and twists, forward and backward, like Tigger unleashed—but with perfectly pointed toes.

This isn’t playtime on a backyard trampoline. The UMD senior is one of the world’s top athletes in trampoline gymnastics. She won a bronze medal at the world championships in November—the first American in half a century to earn a podium spot—and qualified the United States for a berth at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“I still can’t believe it,” she says. “I go back and watch my videos, and I’m like, ‘Wait a second—that was me!’”

Trampoline gymnastics, an Olympic event since 2000, is a separate discipline from better-known, Simone Biles-dominated artistic gymnastics. Trampoline athletes are judged on how well they can execute 10 skills during a roughly one-minute routine as they reach heights of 20 feet or more, flipping and twisting while trying to stay centered.

“I love the feeling of flying,” says Stevens. “It’s so peaceful up in the air.”

She started in gymnastics as just a toddler, and jumping on the trampoline quickly became her favorite part. By the time she was 13, she’d qualified for the national team, and at 17, she competed at the world championships in Bulgaria for the first time.

Stevens’ schedule is relentless. The U.S. competition circuit runs from February through June, and international competitions dot the year, so she rarely has downtime. She starts her day at 7:30 a.m., juggling in-person and online classes (going part-time this spring to focus on the Olympics) with two training sessions at the Fairland Sports and Aquatics Complex in Laurel, Md. Yet she decided not to delay higher education in order to set herself up for a career in the legal field; she knows her body can bear the rigors of the sport for only so long.

After earning an associate’s degree, she enrolled at UMD in Fall 2022 as a criminology and criminal justice major and Russian studies minor. Her professors have been a “godsend” in understanding her complicated schedule, she says.

Her beginner Russian skills are giving her a leg up in her training. Her coach, Konstantin Gulisashvili ’19, M.Arch. ’23, is from the Republic of Georgia, a former member of the Soviet Union, so when she visited his homeland for a training bloc last year, she was finally able to communicate with other experienced coaches and trainers who spoke no English.

“I started out not even being able to say hello to them, and now they can tell me to jump higher, work on certain things—even offer me tea,” she says.

Gulisashvili says her work ethic, both in class and at the gym, sets her apart. And as the youngest finalist at worlds, she has a “very bright future” in the sport, he says. “I don’t think she’s at her peak.”

This spring, Stevens competed at two Olympic trials and has one more in June, where she’ll find out if she’s been selected to represent the U.S. in July. She’s grateful for the support of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which flew her out to the Colorado Springs Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and has given her access to top sports medicine doctors who can treat aches and injuries that stump regular physicians.

“I’m really proud of where I am right now,” Stevens says. “I really want to get to the Olympics, but you also have to enjoy the journey.”

Terps Help Team USA Field Hockey Score Olympic Bid

Olympic rings

The United States women’s field hockey team again won a role on the Olympic stage, and several Terps provided an assist

Sisters Emma ’23 and Brooke DeBerdine ’21 and Kelee Lepage ’20 lined up with Team USA as it came from behind to defeat Japan, 2-1, in January’s FIH Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi, India. The victory punched the team’s ticket to Paris after it missed the cut for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Three other Terps—Linnea Gonzales ’19, Josie Hollamon ’27 and Hope Rose ’24—were also on Team USA’s roster leading up to the 2024 Games. The squad, hoping to return to the Olympic podium for the first time since earning bronze in 1984, will announce a final 16-player roster with up to three alternates this summer.


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