SILVER SPRING, Md. - At the Rio Olympics in 2016, 30 athletes from D.C., Maryland and Virginia competed in the summer games. But none of them took part in gymnastics routines. However, a local 13-year-old is on track to change that for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Behind an ordinary door in an ordinary industrial plaza off an ordinary road in Silver Spring trains an extraordinary athlete.
“It feels like I’m flying basically,” said Changa Anderson. “It feels amazing.”
This gravity-defying teenager specializes in trampoline. But do not be mistaken – this isn't the little coil spring tramp your neighbor had in his backyard.
“On a backyard trampoline, you are probably getting up to a max 10 feet in the air,” said Juwan Young. “On these Olympic trampolines, you are getting like three stories in the air.”
Flying stories through the air sounds like the stuff of superheroes.
“I would say more like a ninja because I have more control of my body when I flip,” Anderson said.
He has had the body control of a ninja since he was in diapers.
“At two [years old], Changa was flipping out of the crib,” said Angela Anderson, Changa’s mother. "My husband and I would go downstairs to watch a movie when he was a baby and we would hear, 'Boom!' and these little feet at the top of the gate going 'Mama!' I knew then this kid has some type of a flipping skill. I have never seen a 2-year-old flip out of a crib.”
“At the age of 5 years old, he was already in here doing full back handsprings, so we knew he definitely had some special talent,” said Young.
Changa has flipped his way from the crib to Bulgaria, the site of this month's Trampoline World Championships. He is an exceptional athlete, but he isn't just exceptional because of his athleticism.
“To be the only one this year in the world championship, to be an African American, it's amazing,” said Young.
“Often times, he is the only African American male, and I see parents of younger children, they are like, ‘Oh, we love watching your son. He is going to be something someday,'” said Changa’s mother.
Someday, Changa might be an Olympic gold medalist on the trampoline. But he almost never made it past 2015.
“He was doing a trampoline routine he's done before and got lost and landed heels first and his chin hit himself in the knee,” said his coach.
“He broke his jaw – both top and bottom,” his mother said. “He had a huge three-inch gap at the bottom of his chin. He lost four teeth. They just shattered.”
“The coolest part was he wasn't too worried about the injury,” said Young. “He was worried about going to nationals.”
He did compete at nationals just a week after the injury. He didn’t just compete. He got second place.
“Knowing how good I am, I think that I can be even better and better,” said Changa. “I have to keep working, and even if I fall down, I just have to get back up and keep going."
He keeps getting back up and keeps working – over 16 hours a week – on top of maintaining all A's and B's in school. He has a goal that he, his coaches and his entire family are working to achieve.
“To go to the Olympics and to win the world championships on November 12th,” the aspiring 13-year-old said.
It sounds like the dreams of a kid whose head is in the clouds. But that's the thing – the stark metal canopy at the Silver Stars Gymnastics factory is just about the only thing that can limit Changa’s leaps. But nothing can limit his ability to achieve those dreams.
“He has no ceiling,” said his coach. “The sky is the limit for this kid. He’s going to be great.”
Changa and his family leave next week for the world championships where he is expected to bring home the gold medal. However, the family will have to pay out of their pocket for this trip to Bulgaria. If you would like to help this phenomenal young man achieve his dream, a GoFundMe page has been set up for him.