Former Oakley gymnast Ruben Padilla entered the Pan American Games in Peru earlier this month, knowing the competition was stiff and the event’s trampolines not as bouncy as usual.
But, it turned out, little could keep him from jumping nearly to the top of the leaderboard.
The 18-year-old secured a bronze medal against the top athletes in the Western Hemisphere, and his 57.160 final score was just 0.28 points behind winner Jeremy Chartier of Canada.
“It went really good,” said Padilla, one of several athletes to note that the event’s trampolines weren’t as bouncy as usual. “I am happy with the outcome. I wasn’t expecting a medal there.”
Padilla competed like he was soaring for a medal from the beginning of the two-day competition.
The former Freedom High student finished second in the preliminary round, just 0.245 points behind leader and teammate Jeffrey Gluckstein, before pulling off a medal-winning performance in the finals, with one of his best performances ever, he said.
Competitors are judged on routine difficulty, execution, time of flight and horizontal displacement from the center of the trampoline.
“At finals, all I wanted to do was hit my routine and I’d be happy with that,” Padilla said. “I didn’t care a whole lot about placing, and I did one of the best routines I have ever done.”
As one of the final competitors to fly, Padilla didn’t have to wait long to know he medaled, but the results were agonizingly close, with just 0.15 points separating winner Chartier from silver medalist Gluckstein, 0.13 points between Gluckstein and Padilla for second place, and 0.035 points between Padilla and fourth-place finisher Angel Hernandez of Colombia.
The mathematical drama was almost too much for Padilla’s parents to bear as they watched live from the stands.
“We were shocked; I cried,” said Nelia Padilla, Ruben’s mother. “My husband was kinda shaky. He couldn’t believe it.”
“It’s amazing,” added Jerry Padilla, Ruben’s father. “You have that pride. You get the chills. It’s a good feeling.”
Ruben’s bronze win is yet another notable achievement in his still-evolving 13-year story, which he hopes will one day take him to the Olympics.
Now a Utah resident (to continue training at a high level) and in the midst of his second year competing at the sport’s highest Senior Elite level, Ruben also finished second in the double mini competition at the World Championships in Russia in 2018 — his first world championships at the senior elite level — and recently won the double mini trampoline competition at the USA Gymnastics Championships in Iowa, in addition to finishing fourth in the synchronized trampoline competition and seventh place (second in preliminaries) in the trampoline event.
But he’s not letting his success go to his head.
“I try not to be too confident or anything,” Ruben said. “I just take it as it comes.”
Ruben’s Olympic hopes hinge on his continued development and success. He’s currently training around two hours a day and 17 hours a week under coach Sven Nielsen.
Ruben’s next opportunities to rise in the sport will be another trampoline competition at the World Cup in Russia in September and a trip to Spain in October for the Trampoline and Double Mini World Cups.