Central Alberta gymnast has sights set on 2019 Winter Games

Thunder Country Trampoline and Gymnastics have a tradition of training the best trampoline athletes

Thunder Country Trampoline and Gymnastics have a long tradition of training some the best trampoline athletes in the world and Jesse Starchuk, 13, of St. Patrick’s School in Red Deer, could one day be an international star.

Starchuk just recently qualified to compete in Canadian national trampoline events.

“Right now I am training for a national competition which is in Oshawa, Ontario,” he said. “I have just got into the national level – level five and I am really proud to be representing Alberta in this national competition and it will be pretty big.’

According to Thunder Country Trampoline Owner and National Trampoline Coach Ken Soehn – Starchuk is just beginning a journey that could take him to the Olympics if he puts the time in.

“He is a young guy and he is exceptionally strong. He looks older then he is,” Soehn said. “Part of the sport that has developed over the years is how high you can jump on the trampoline. It is measured by lasers and he is very good at that. That gives him a jump up in the sport; it is just a matter of learning the skills. If he trains enough, he will probably have a long career and do very well.”

Soehn said there are eight levels in trampoline with the first four being at the provincial level and the last four being at the national level. If Starchuk scores well at national events, he will have the opportunity to compete on the international scene.

“Level five is the beginning of competitive trampoline,” Starchuk said. “It was hard to to get there and I put in those four years. I’m definitely ready for it. Probably my biggest goal is to push myself as much as I can. I don’t necessarily need to get to any of the games, but I want to see what I can do and push my limits.”

Soehn said the goals for Starchuk and the rest of the team at Thunder Country is to compete in the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. He added the kids he has now are the best candidates he has currently to make those games.

Starchuk joked that his journey into competitive trampoline started when his parents forced him into taking gymnastics.

“I have been into gymnastics my whole life. I started when I was little and I just got into competitive four years ago,” he said. “I started out in recreation but my parents noticed I took a huge interest in the trampoline. They said, ‘Hey let’s put him in trampoline’ and I have liked it ever since.

“It has inspired me to do a lot of other things as well. It has taught me to try to exceed my own expectations in sports, school and other things. You have to push and strive for the best you can do.”

One of the distinct advantages that Starchuk has is the ability to be trained by Pan-American Hames gold medal winner and arguably the best ranked trampoline athlete on the planet Keegan Soehn.

“I have definetly looked up to Keegan Soehn,” he said. “He has not only been a visual inspiration – he also has been there for me mentally. When I was little and starting, watching his skills on the tramp, it really made me think that I want to get there.”

Ken, Keegan’s father, said his son was exceptional, however Starchuk has the physical gifts to reach that same level as long as he commits to his development.

“What we have to do is teach him how to train and we had to that for Keegan as well,” Ken said. “He is a young guy with lots of ability that can do whatever he wants. For him it will just be how much effort he puts in over time.”

Currently, Starchuk is training 12 hours every week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to reach that elite tier of athletes.

“In the next levels, I hope to find my comfort level,” Starchuk said. “Right now I am searching and I think being able to find my comfort level would help me move up in national levels. I would really like to build my skills and find my own self-confidence.”

Ken said his first experiences in national competition will help shape Starchuk’s development plan.

“His first nationals will help him decided how he feels about the more intense environment. You have people from all over the country who are all good – that’s how they made it there,” he said.

Starchuk feels building his mental toughness will help him against this elite competition.

“Hard work is a big factor but it is more about preparing yourself mentally,” he said. “It is a mind-straining sport and you need to kn0w what you are doing. You need to recognize what you are doing is more then just jumping on a trampoline. It is thinking about. It is breaking it all down – your routine and skills – and then building it back up. It is about making it as comfortable as you can.

“I really like this sport and for as long as I have been doing it, I wouldn’t mind doing it longer.”