ANTIOCH -- Jumping up and down on a trampoline may seem like child's play to most, but one local boy takes this play activity much more seriously. What began just a few years back as a fun summer recreation class has now turned into a sport of choice for Jelani Roberson of Antioch. Earlier this month the 13-year-old competed and won a gold medal in a Junior Olympics competition for his favorite sport.
"It's been a lot of hard work, but I'm glad I did it," Roberson said.
Like many children, Roberson started gymnastics through a local summer recreation program after he decided he wanted to try something new. Previously he was taking martial arts classes. He also participated in Little League and soccer, but found he liked gymnastics best. After two summers he decided he wanted to get more serious in the sport and began taking full-time classes through a neighbor's gymnastics studio in Antioch.
"I really liked the idea of competing," he said.
For three years Roberson practiced and competed, winning several awards along the way. At one point his coach, Yoshi, former owner of Four Star Gymnastics, told him that his hard work was paying off and it was time to start thinking about competing for the high stakes in the sport -- the USA Gymnastics program.
For those serious about gymnastics, the USA Gymnastics organization is one of the top competition programs in the nation. The organization is considered the sole governing body
The organization selects and trains the U.S. Gymnastics Teams for Olympic Games and World Championships, so if Roberson wants to get noticed in the field for the future Olympics, this is the place to compete.
After working hard and choosing what was best-suited for him to compete in, Roberson spent most afternoons after school working out and practicing. His goal was to compete and win a gold medal in the USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling Junior Olympic National Championships 2012.
"I liked the double mini trampoline the most," Roberson said.
With that in mind, Roberson worked with his coach on developing a routine for the competition.
Roberson said that there were a lot of competitors at the USA Gymnastics competition with several different categories and age groups. He competed in the Double-Mini age group 13 to 14. He said there was a lot of competition and everyone was very good.
Only one person can go home with the gold medal, though, and this year it was Roberson. The win in July has only solidified Roberson's decision that gymnastics is the sport for him and he wants to keep practicing and working his way up so that one day he will get to participate on the United States team for the Worldwide Olympics.
"It's a lot of hard work. You only do gymnastics as a sport if you are prepared to work and not just do it for fun," he said.
With that said, however, Roberson said gymnastics is a fun sport.
This year Roberson's longtime coach is moving on to teach in Alaska, leaving Roberson to move on to a new training facility as well, but Roberson said he's looking forward to meeting new people and learning more.
In our "Neighbors" series, we give you a personal look at the people in your community. If you would like to nominate someone for this column, contact Judy Prieve at 925-779-7178 or e-mail email@example.com.