© John Cheng

By Jennifer Teitell

Heading into her fifth World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships, 21-year-old Erin Jauch knew the meet in Odense, Denmark, would be her final competition. A storied career spanning 16 years and two World titles would come to a close. “I knew going into [that] competition, no matter what, win or lose, I was going to retire,” Jauch said.

After a motivating individual win at the 2014 World Championships in Daytona, Fla., to earn her second world gold medal, Jauch scrapped plans to retire, instead deciding to hang around for one more year in hopes of claiming back-to-back individual World titles. “I committed to training for another year, but I knew Denmark would be my final Worlds,” Jauch remarked. In addition to her individual double mini-trampoline gold in Daytona, Jauch was part of the U.S. team that claimed gold in 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Jauch’s vision for her third World title stems back from her childhood. “I started gymnastics before I could walk, and my mom was a coach, so I was always in the gym.” Coached by her mother since age 5, Jauch’s road to Demark included four national titles, two World titles, and two World bronze medals.

Jauch trained hard with determination for the 2015 World Championships, but injuries hampered her training putting her dream of a third World gold in jeopardy. Jauch arrived in Denmark feeling less than 100 percent. She qualified in seventh for the double-mini finals in Denmark. The top eight athletes from the World qualification round advance to finals. The top qualifier at the 2014 World Championships, Jauch had barely advanced to the medal round.

At stake in the double-mini final was a year of work; could Jauch go out on top, defending her World title? Rising to the challenge, she performed flawlessly in the finals, sticking her second pass, a piked rudi out to layout, full-in. Jauch saluted the judges and ran straight into her mother’s open arms. The combined score of 71.100 clinched the gold medal

Jauch’s last time on the competition floor was her mother’s first. “I remember us standing on the floor, and we just hugged, and both started crying,” said Jauch. “That was probably the most special, memorable moment. It just felt like a perfect time to retire after winning two times in a row. There’s not much more that I could have done.”

Despite the injuries and limited training time, the 21-year old finished her career on top of the world. The victory was the third World title for the Jauch and the one she least expected. “Since I was dealing with a hamstring injury, my training and preparation was not at its finest going into the competition,” said Jauch. “This was the most shocking victory.”

Would the three-time world champion change her mind about retiring after this surprising victory? Since World Championships for trampoline and tumbling are not held in an Olympic year, Jauch would have to commit to two more years of intense training for a shot at another world title in 2017. “Not this time,” laughs Jauch. “I plan on attending a radiology tech program, so I have to be pretty focused on school. I’ve had a few injuries this year, and I felt like my body was telling me that it was time.”

Jauch hopes her legacy includes more than just medals. “As an athlete people notice my speed and how high I get. I think I would rather be remembered for my bubbly personality and how I always did better when I was having fun.”

Initially overwhelmed with all of her free time, Jauch has settled in nicely to this new chapter in her life. And she’s found a new passion, one that seems to run in the family – coaching. “Coaching is my calling right now. I want to help other people and be a mentor for the other athletes. I feel like it’s my opportunity to give back and make these kids the best athletes that they can be.” Jauch said.

“Gymnastics taught me that if you keep working, and you don’t give up on your dreams, you can accomplish anything.” Jauch hopes the same characteristics that made her successful in gymnastics carry over to her new career. “Gymnastics shaped me in so many ways to become the person that I am today. My career was full of ups and downs, but I persevered.”

The bubbly 21-year-old still laughs as she recalls one of her early competitions. “I was still competing for trampoline and just blanked on my routine.” Keeping her trademark positive attitude, she walked up to the judges and said, “I’m so sorry, but I forgot my routine.” As Jauch steps away with three World golds, one thing is certain: she won’t have to worry about being forgotten.