In lockdown, one of our star trampolinists couldn’t train so took up top-level rugby – but she came back to land herself a world title
One week before becoming a world trampoline champion, Bronwyn Dibb was streaming the Black Ferns’ World Cup triumph in between training bounces in Bulgaria.
She loves the game so much, Dibb dreams of adding a rugby world champion’s title to her historic world trampoline gold medal.
The 25-year-old from Christchurch took out the double mini trampoline event in Sofia last week, and soon will trade the leotard for her rugby boots – beginning the rugby pre-season in a few weeks.
The multi-talented athlete manages to balance trampolining, rugby and a part-time job and after some setbacks during lockdown, is on top of the world for the first time.
Even with her first world title, Dibb is still working towards a goal of becoming a Black Fern.
“The plan is to keep doing both for as long as I can until I guess I have to make that tough decision,” says Dibb, who played for national champions Canterbury in last season’s Farah Palmer Cup.
Dibb was the first New Zealander in 24 years to win a double mini world trampoline title, and a day later, her team-mate Olympic bronze medallist Dylan Schmidt also claimed gold in the men’s trampoline.
Dibb was feeling confident coming into the world champs, with a silver at the World Games in July.
“I was feeling really good, I had a really good build up, training had been going well,” she says.
The top eight competitors make the final, and Dibb’s first pass had an 8.4 difficulty score – 0.1 off the women’s difficulty world record for the double mini.
“I did a full-in half-out straight, which is a double somersault with a full twist in the first somersault and a half twist in the second somersault into a full full straight, which is a full twist in the first somersault and a full twist in the second somersault,” she describes.
Dibb scored a 27.2, the highest score of the competition, moving her into the top four who then compete in a second pass, which has to be different from their first.
“I did a full-in half-out pike in a different position into a back full which is a double back straight with a full twist in the last somersault,” says Dibb.
“The pass didn’t quite go as well as I hoped, so only ended up scoring a 24.9. ‘Cause I was the first one up, we just sat back and watched and hoped it was enough, and it ended up being enough, which was awesome.”
She was 0.1 points clear of the USA’s Tristan van Natta, with Cheyanna Robinson from Australia collecting bronze.
“I’ve been so close over the last few years, I’ve got a few silvers and have been in and around that top four so to finally come away with a gold, it was just a dream come true,” Dibb says. Her silver at the world championships in 2019 was New Zealand’s first medal in 21 years.
“All the hard work, sacrifices, time and effort that not only me, but my parents and my coaches and everyone else that has taken part on my journey, all that was worth it in the end.”
Dibb has been in gymnastics since she was three, when her family moved from South Africa to New Zealand. She started trampolining when she was nine, and immediately loved it.
“It’s just so much fun, every kid loves jumping on the trampoline and then learning how to do all the somersaults and all that. Now I’m competing, just that adrenaline and feeling of flying through the air is really cool,” she says.
Being with the same coaches since she was nine, her commitment to the trampoline meant other sports were out of the question while she was competing.
“I’ve always loved rugby and always wanted to play but obviously I didn’t because I didn’t want to risk getting injured for trampolining,” Dibb says.
During New Zealand’s Covid lockdowns, Dibb found it especially difficult to train for her specialty event – “you don’t really have one of those trampolines in your backyard” – she jokes.
As the rest of the world started to open up, Dibb was still stuck at home, struggling for an MIQ space while her rivals from other countries were competing.
“That was tough, but it only makes you stronger, so it’s good to be through the other side of it,” she says.
“But then during lockdown when we couldn’t travel for trampolining, I was like I’m going to give rugby a go because I had a few friends who were playing, and then gave it a go, loved it.”
Dibb made the Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup team as a winger, and says her strength and speed from trampolining help with rugby, as well as knowing how to perform under pressure.
“I didn’t expect to progress that fast but they’re all such lovely girls, the environment’s really cool, all the coaching staff are really supportive and knew I was really new to the sport, but have really helped me and guided me along the way so it’s been really good.”
She hopes to continue both sports for as long as possible, while also working part-time at the North Canterbury Sports and Rec Trust, visiting primary schools to do sports coaching and teach cycle safety.
Dibb has been with the same coaches since she was nine – Nigel and Vicki Humphreys and John Howe, currently at Ice Trampoline and Gymnastics North Canterbury.
Nigel Humphreys coached New Zealand’s last double mini world champ – Kylie Walker, who won gold in 1998, one year after Dibb was born.
While Dibb hasn’t met Walker, who now lives in Wales, she’s spoken to her a few times and hopes to meet our other history-making athlete.
Walker won double mini gold at the 1992, 1994 and 1998 world championships, and won 10 senior world championship medals in her career.
Dibb (bottom row, second from right) and the New Zealand team at the trampoline world championships.
New Zealand had never had two individual gold medallists at a world champs, so with Tokyo bronze medallist Dylan Schmidt winning the individual men’s trampoline event, the Kiwis made history.
“It was really cool, our whole New Zealand team did so well, I don’t think we could have asked for better results,” Dibb says, who also competed in the synchronised trampoline competition with Madaline Davidson.
“We had five athletes go to the world championships and we made four world championship finals, which is just incredible. And having me and Dylan both become a world champion is pretty special.”