- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

The sport of trampoline, first introduced to the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, is all about high-flying exploits.

Athletes will launch from the trampoline into the air high as 25 feet above the apparatus and perform twists, tucks and somersaults. They are judged by the time in the air, how difficult their routines are and how well they execute them.

The athletes - 16 men and 16 women - are expected to keep up the height and form throughout their airborne routines while staying to the middle of the trampoline. Here’s what to know about the favorites, rivalries and other stories emerging from the group:

TEAM TO WATCH: Chinese athletes dominate the sport, even though the country put together a national team only in 2002 and made its Olympic debut in 2004.

Defending champion Dong Dong and Gao Lei are vying to win China’s third consecutive Olympic gold in the men’s individual event.

Dong, now ranked No. 3, stunned the audience in London four years ago with his near-perfect high-flying routine. He spent more than 18 seconds in the air. He is greatly admired by fellow trampoline gymnasts.

The Chinese women have won medals in Athens, Beijing and London. On the team for Rio is world champion Li Dan and He Wenna, known as the Trampoline Princess. He Wenna was the gold medalist in 2008 in Beijing but, four years later in London, she fell at the end of her routine.

JUMP START FOR CANADA: As the defending champion, Rosie MacLennan faces a tough field as she seeks a repeat in Rio. Yet she remains at the peak of her sport and recently won the women’s title at Trampoline Arosa World Cup.

MacLennan, who is known for performing three triple somersaults in her routine, won Canada’s only gold medal at the London Olympics.

RISING STAR: At age 20, Uladzislau Hancharou of Belarus has had a rapid ascent. The boyish-looking athlete placed second in the 2015 Championships after beating Dong - one of his inspirations - and Dmitry Ushakov of Russia.

Hancharou began training for the sport at 6 when he was recruited into a sports school. His ambition is to win a medal of any color in Rio, then the gold in Tokyo in 2020.

RUSSIAN CONTENDER: Ushakov will be a three-time Olympian when he arrives in Rio, where he aims to improve one place on his silver in London four years ago.

Ushakov is ranked No. 1 by the International Federation of Gymnastics, and his rivalry with Hancharou and Dong promises to be one of the highlights of the competition.

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