Juneau Jumpers say G'day

Quintet is in Australia for World Jump Rope Championships

Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Jumping rope is routine for the five senior members of the Juneau Jumpers.

Jumping oceans - now that's something new.

Nicole Lim, Lesley Kalbrener, Amber Johnson, Tera Ross and Isabel Bush - along with coaches Scott and Donna Johnson - are in Brisbane, Australia, this week to compete at the World Jump Rope Championships.

"To travel across the world to jump rope - it's a dream come true," Lim said last week.

The Jumpers' epic trip to Brisbane included stops in Los Angeles and New Zealand before arriving in Australia earlier this week. They will compete all day Saturday - Friday afternoon and evening, Alaska time - followed by an international workshop early next week.

It's the first competition abroad for Lim, Kalbrener, Ross and Bush. The Johnsons - Scott, Donna and daughter Amber - traveled to a meet in Belgium two years ago.

"You're not going to realize what you're going to until you're there," Amber Johnson said, recalling her 2002 trip. "It's hard - not just physically, but mentally - to stay in the game."

The Jumpers have been doing everything they can to prepare, after qualifying for the international meet with their performance in April at the U.S. World Team Qualifying Tournament in Cleveland. The Jumpers took second in the female age 15-17 division; the top two teams qualified for Australia.

"We've been training four days a week for 2, 2 1/2 hours," Amber Johnson said of the past few months.

"Just running through every event, trying to nail every event," Lim said.

Last week, during practices at Glacier Valley Elementary School, the Jumpers were putting the finishing touches on their program - or "tying the bow" on their total package, Kalbrener said.

Wrists, hands, feet, rope - all were a blur as Amber Johnson, and then Lim took turns jumping in the middle as Ross and Kalbrener turned in the double Dutch pairs speed event - one of eight events they'll perform in Australia.

There are four speed events - judged on the number of rope turns - and four freestyle events - judged on style and skill. Two to four Jumpers take part in each event.

They almost never reached this point. Just three days before April's qualifying meet, Kalbrener was injured during practice and could not compete. She was a part of all eight events, so the remaining four Jumpers had to scramble to fill the gaps.

"We had three days to squeeze in what we were working on for five months," Lim said.

Their subsequent success has given them a dose of confidence entering world competition - especially since they're back at full strength.

"(Since) we could do it with an injury, we can definitely do it without," Bush said. "Now we'll be more prepared."

Fifteen countries will be represented at the meet, with squads from Hungary, Australia and the United States among the elite. After the competition, workshops will bring the jumpers together in a low-pressure atmosphere.

"It's the best jumpers in the world," Scott Johnson said. "The competition is very good. ... With this event, the kids get to mix with and see jumpers from other places, who speak other languages."

"It's going to open our eyes to the magnitude of the sport" around the world, Kalbrener said.

And win or lose, the Jumpers said they're going to enjoy the time they spend Down Under.

"We've been practicing so long," Amber Johnson said. "In the back of our minds, we want to win. But we want to just walk away from the competition knowing we gave our all."

• Andrew Krueger can be reached at andrew.krueger@juneauempire.com.

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