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Valley teen gymnasts to compete internationally

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In this Aug. 25, 2012 photo, Steven Harris, 15, of Chandler executes a flip off of a double mini trampoline during an event at Aspire Kids Sports Center in Chandler, Ariz. Harris is one of four gymnasts from the center selected to compete in a gymnastics

In this Aug. 25, 2012 photo, Steven Harris, 15, of Chandler executes a flip off of a double mini trampoline during an event at Aspire Kids Sports Center in Chandler, Ariz. Harris is one of four gymnasts from the center selected to compete in a gymnastics World Cup event in Portugal in September.

The Arizona Republic, Weldon B. Johnson) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Anyone watching gymnastics at the London Olympics could see that the sport isn't for the faint of heart.

However, the athletes who compete in the sport's lesser-known trampoline and tumbling often take the more high-flying aspects of gymnastics even higher.

Five gymnasts from Aspire Kids Sports Center in Chandler earned spots on USA Gymnastics national teams for 2012-13. Four of them gave a brief demonstration last Saturday afternoon before heading to Portugal for international competition next month.

Michael Liao, 14, and Steven Harris, 15, both of Chandler, are headed to Portugal on Sept. 7-9 for the Loule Cup. Josh Browne, 15, and Jerrett Jensen, 17, both of Gilbert, also will take part in the meet.

Bryce Wilson, 18, of Manteca, Calif., is the other Aspire athlete selected for national-team competition but he will not compete in Portugal because there was a lack of entrants in his category.

Jon Black, head coach of trampoline and tumbling at Aspire, was named U.S. head tumbling coach for the meet.

Trampoline and tumbling athletes compete in double mini trampoline, synchronized trampoline, trampoline and tumbling. Of those, only trampoline is an Olympic sport.

Black said the difference between trampoline and tumbling and artistic gymnastics typically seen at the Olympics is that athletes who excel in floor exercise and vault tend to be drawn to trampoline and tumbling because it gives them a chance to focus on acrobatic aspects of those events.

"This is an extreme form of gymnastics," Black said. "It's like the X Games of gymnastics. Some of the hardest tricks in the world are combined in what they do."

The five athletes from Aspire were selected to compete in various disciplines.

Liao, who is part of the Olympic Development Team, competes on double mini trampoline. Browne and Harris were named to the Junior National Team in double mini trampoline. Browne will also compete in tumbling.

Jensen and Wilson were named to the 17-19 team with Wilson competing in tumbling and Jensen in trampoline.

In addition to the meet in Portugal, the athletes will be among those taking part in meets in Mexico and Australia. They could be selected for other international meets, as well.

"Their being selected for these teams says a lot about them," Black said. "Not only are they talented but they work hard, too."

Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com