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Oak Ridge teen to compete at trampoline tumbling World Cup

Xavier Harper loves to do flips. He's also really good at it and has the medals to prove it.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — UPDATE: Congratulations to Xavier Harper!

The Oak Ridge middle schooler just got back from Italy, where he was competing for Team USA at the Trampoline Tumbling World Cup.

Xavier came home with a silver medal, winning second place in his age group.

It's his second trampoline tumbling medal on the international stage.

Original story: Trampoline gymnastics takes your average backyard trampoline to a new level.

"I like the feeling of just flying in the air," said Xavier Harper. "You know, the feeling of doing multiple flips, you know?"

Most of us don't know that feeling.

But for Xavier, 14, upside down in the air is his favorite place to be.

"When I first saw Xavier, he was just an athlete with raw talent," said his coach Eric Thomas. "He came to me and he could flip. But, you know, that was it. He wanted to flip."

He still does. But with the help of Coach Eric, Xavier's gone from "kid who wants to flip" to "kid who's really good at flipping."

"I have been selected to compete in tumbling and trampoline in Rimini, Italy this May for the Trampoline Tumbling World Cup," said Xavier.

That's a big deal.

"It's like the Junior Olympics of the sport," he said.

RELATED: Up, up and away | Knoxville teen competing in trampoline world championships

Xavier is no stranger to the podium.

"He came in first on trampoline and beat all the juniors from last year," said Thomas.

Xavier's proven he's among the top at his level.

"You're competing against the best in your age group and your country, and then when you make that team, then you're going against the best in the world," said Thomas.

The World Cup is a step below the World Age Group Championships, where last year despite some nerves, Xavier brought home the silver medal for Team USA.

"Just seeing the American flag like just raised up there, it was just breathtaking," he said.

It's a sight he hopes to see again when he goes to Italy to compete in May.

"I already have my routines set. I just have to perfect them," said Xavier. "Gear up. Stay healthy. Can't be getting any injuries during this time."

Xavier practices 10 hours a week at Premier Athletics in North Knoxville, on top of running track and cross country at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge.

"A lot of conditioning and stretching and a lot of practicing comes into it," he said.

RELATED: Rules of the Game: Trampoline

Running is great, but nothing compares to the freedom Xavier feels flying in the gym.

"He came in, he put the work in. He's just naturally talented when it comes to air awareness and the things that you almost really can't teach," said Thomas.

Xavier plans to keep learning and keep collecting medals for Team USA.

"It's just a dream," he said. "Everything I've worked so hard for, it's just coming true."

Thomas has several other athletes expected to qualify for more international competitions, some hoping to join Xavier in Italy.

If you'd like to help fund his trip abroad, you can visit his GoFundMe page.

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