Sport

Luke Boon on the endurance, artistry and gymnastic ability needed to become a world champion rope skipper. By Vivienne Pearson.
Credit: VIVIENNE PEARSON

Skipping a beat: Luke Boon, 27, rope skipper

The first thing people say is, “I didn’t even know skipping was a sport.” We call it rope skipping and in America they call it jump rope. It’s big all through Europe and the US, and then there’s Asia. It’s so big in China now that there are schools that are specifically created for rope skipping. It’s a growing sport and the bar keeps getting raised.

With speed, the fastest kids in the world are doing eight to 10 skips per second. It’s a running on the spot motion. Then there’s freestyle, which incorporates gymnastics. Double Dutch is one of my favourite events and we placed second in the FISAC-IRSF World Rope Skipping Championships, held in Shanghai in July.

I saw a display of skipping at my school fete when I was 11. One of my friends did a full 360 backwards somersault in the air with the rope passing under her. I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do; it gives me goosebumps even now. I was playing cricket, which is big in my family – my uncle is Ian Healy – but then suddenly it was all about skipping. There’d be nights where it would be past midnight and Mum would have to take the rope out of my hands and say, “Go to bed.”

The ultimate aim is for rope skipping to become an Olympic sport. Two world bodies are coming together to form the International Jump Rope Union and the sport has recently been awarded observation status by the Global Association of International Sports Federations.

My highlight is remaining undefeated in the open team competition for 12 years. We weren’t expecting to win in Shanghai; we’re still in a bit of shock. Another highlight was taking back the record for triple unders, with 530 in a row.

Five minutes of skipping is like a 25-minute run. Boxers know that it’s one of the best forms of fitness and CrossFit use double unders. There’s no direct link with Jump Rope for Heart, which is not competitive, but that’s often how people get into it.

Speed ropes are a stainless-steel wire. When it hits you, it hurts. Even a plastic freestyle rope, which is not that different to a kid’s skipping rope, can create a welt.

Since 2016, I’ve been commuting 1.5 hours each way to train five days a week. I work full-time in a marketing field. I love my job but jump rope is what I would love to make my full-time career. I coach but not as much as I’d like. I want to grow the sport not just in Australia but through the wider region.

The skipping community is so giving. At the end of each national or international competition, we do a camp with all the athletes and coaches, and everyone goes out of their way to help each other. You don’t see that in other sports.

My club, Cleveland Air Magic, puts on skipping musicals as a fundraiser. We’ve done Skiparella, a rendition of Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Skippers. The whole club is involved, it’s a lot of fun, and balances the seriousness of the competitions.

Teams in other countries are supported by government funding or private sponsorship. My team has two team members at uni and three with full-time jobs and we do it all out of our own pocket. We’ve been looking for a sponsor – skipping seems perfect for a breakfast cereal or sportswear – but it’s been hard.

Miss Barker – I still call her this – has been my coach since the day I walked in the door 16 years ago. [Carolyn’s] a primary-school teacher and started skipping as a bit of fun at lunchtime before she realised there’s another world of rope skipping out there. She’s the reason I’ve been around so long, and that Australia is one of the most competitive countries in the world.

I don’t plan on leaving the sport any time soon. A skipper from Japan competed in Double Dutch Fusion at 70, so I’ve got a little while to go. I’m probably the oldest competitor with a No. 1 ranking. My body is still able and I’ve been lucky with injuries.

It was an amazing honour to be asked to be the World Jump Rope athlete of the month for August 2018. When you win a gold medal, it’s like every bit of effort has paid off, whereas this is emotional in a different way, more about the journey from the beginning.

Skipping has everything: gymnastics, racing against the clock, the artistic routine to music, endurance, and there’s the team aspect, not just the individual. It’s portable and affordable. I can pull out a rope and do it right now.

This week’s highlights…

AFL: Elimination final 2 – Sydney Swans v GWS Giants

Saturday, 4.20pm (AEST), Sydney Cricket Ground

NRL: Qualifying final – Sydney Roosters v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

Saturday, 7.40pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Rugby union: Wallabies v South Africa

Saturday, 8pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Tennis: US Open – singles finals

Women’s, Sunday, 6am (AEST); men’s, Monday, 6am (AEST), Flushing Meadows, New York

Motorsport: San Marino and Rimini Coast MotoGP

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Italy

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 8, 2018 as "Skipping a beat". Subscribe here.

Vivienne Pearson
is a freelance writer.

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