BELMONT NORTH trampolinist Jessica Pickering only started seeing herself as a serious contender for the Tokyo Olympics in recent months.
"I had a goal towards it, but I'm really very new to the senior competition," Pickering, 20, told the Newcastle Herald from the Olympic Village.
"I wasn't particularly expecting this Olympics, but potentially Paris 2024.
"It was only recently that I achieved the results where I thought 'I'm pretty close, I may as well try my best to get there'."
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Pickering - who graduated from Belmont High School in 2019 and is studying for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Newcastle - qualified for the Olympics after placing fifth in a World Cup event in Italy in June, before going on to place fourth at an event in Portugal in July.
She had placed eighth in a World Cup event in Azerbaijan in February 2020.
No other Australian trampolinist has made three consecutive World Cup finals to secure international and Olympic rankings before.
"It's pretty good," Pickering said of the atmosphere in the village.
"I feel like we're on the final leg of the tour we're on and it's starting to feel a little bit more real now that we're actually in the village and we're training in the facilities and we're on the trampolines and bouncing with all the other countries."
Pickering said she was "pretty excited and not too nervous" to be one of 16 trampolinists in the women's qualification round at 2pm AEST on Friday, when each will perform two routines. Pickering is first up.
The top eight will proceed to the final, at 3.50pm AEST.
"I just want to have fun and really take in the whole experience," she said.
"I just want to do two routines. If I make it into the finals then that's great, but I just want to be happy with what I put up on the trampoline qualification."
She doesn't have any superstitions or lucky charms.
"I like to listen to music and have a good time on the floor and dance around a bit," she said.
"I know my training is there and so my performance will be there as well."
Australian Olympic trampolining coach Brett Austine said Pickering had "won her Olympic gold medal already, just making it through to this position of the top 16 in the world".
The Belmont High physical education teacher has coached Pickering for 12 years, since soon after she joined Eastlake Trampoline Sports.
"That [her recent performances] is her gold medal, everything from here on in is a matter of her just enjoying the experience, having fun, putting up the performance of her life and seeing how the dice rolls."
Austine, who was a judge at the London and Beijing Olympics, said Pickering was a "gem in the rough" and had a healthy attitude to competing.
"Jess has a really good approach to disarming things and making sure she is clocked off and clocked on when it really counts."
Pickering said she'd had to make sacrifices to get to the games, including missing her high school graduation and other major life events and not being able to socialise with friends on weekends.
She does five or six training sessions on the trampoline each week as well as gym sessions to ensure she is at peak fitness.
"It's just because I enjoy the sport and want to do well at it," she said.
"It's just fun. I like challenges and I like being able to do stuff not a lot of other people can do. I like to be able to flip through the air. I just think the whole sport is very fun and exciting and not every single session is the same. There are so many different opportunities and different things I can challenge myself to do."
Belmont High staff and students will watch Pickering compete live on Friday.
She said the school community was like a supportive family.
"I want to thank everyone who will be watching - I really hope I do them proud and I do Australia proud. I appreciate everyone cheering me on, it really means a lot to me to have a lot of people in my corner."
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