A 13-year-old from Chevy Chase flips and twists his way to a world championship event
As a toddler, Tomás Minc was always jumping and bouncing—and as he got older, he never stopped. “When he was 2, his preschool teacher said he was extremely coordinated, and a risk-taker,” recalls his mother, Tamara Kukurutz, who signed up the two for a mommy-and-me gymnastics class and put a trampoline in their backyard. When Tomás started classes on his own at age 4, coaches could tell right away that he had natural talent. He made the competitive team at Dynamite Gymnastics Center in Rockville when he was 7, and three years later he reached the youth elite level for two events in the trampoline and tumbling (T&T) program of USA Gymnastics. His coach says he’s the youngest gymnast in Maryland to compete at that level, which is the highest in the sport for athletes his age.
Seven-year-old Tomás at his first Trampoline & Tumbling national meet in 2012
“I like the feeling of being in the air,” Tomás says. “It’s just like I’m flying.”
This past November, the seventh-grader from Chevy Chase celebrated his 13th birthday in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he competed in the 2017 T&T World Age Group Competitions. His event was the double mini trampoline, in which gymnasts sprint down a 55-foot runway and jump from one small trampoline to another while performing a series of somersaults and twists. Tomás, the first gymnast from Dynamite to make it to a world championships, finished 17th out of 33 competitors in his age group.
This past November, the seventh-grader celebrated his 13th birthday in Bulgaria, where he competed in a world championship.
“When he’s in the gym, he’s working hard. He’s not afraid of anything,” says Gail Carhart, who coaches Tomás at Dynamite and traveled to Bulgaria with the young gymnast and his mother.
Most weekdays, Tomás gets home from Westland Middle School in Bethesda around 4 p.m., grabs a snack—yogurt, cereal or a banana—and leaves for the gym, where he spends about 20 hours a week. He’s back home around 9 and has a late dinner while doing his homework. Tomás, who’s in Westland’s Spanish immersion program, also plays trumpet in the school band, is on an MSI soccer team, and dives competitively at Rock Creek Pool in the summer. “I like to stay active or else I get really bored at home and I have nothing to do,” he says. During trampoline season, which runs from December to July, he usually participates in eight to 10 meets.
The road to the world championships was rocky for Tomás. Last May, he finished last at a meet in Colorado after losing points in one event for slightly bending his knees. The following month, his right knee started to hurt, and he was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which is typically associated with growth spurts. A painful bony bump appeared on the shinbone just below his knee. He took two weeks off from working out, only going to the gym to stretch. He did physical therapy and had two weeks to prepare for the USA Gymnastics Championships in Milwaukee in June. “I had to push through the pain,” says Tomás, who listens to remixes of pop songs on his phone to relax before competitions. “I didn’t think I’d make [the world championships]. …I wasn’t doing super well because of my knee injury.”
Tomás competed in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2016
Since October 2016, Kukurutz has been selling muffins, doughnuts and homemade empanadas at the gym on Saturdays to help cover the costs of Tomás’ travel. His family also set up a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $5,000. Kukurutz, a preschool teacher, and her husband, Gustavo Minc, who works at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., are originally from Argentina. They have an older son, Lucas, 15, who comes to some of his brother’s practices and meets.
Tomás hopes to qualify for the 2018 T&T World Age Group Competitions in Russia. He won’t be old enough to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and since the double mini competition is not an Olympic event, he’s hoping to adjust his skills and then earn a spot on the U.S. trampoline team for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
In the meantime, Tomás continues to inspire other athletes at Dynamite—some even watched the live stream of his competition in Bulgaria at 3 a.m. “If I’m doing something new and I’m really scared, he’s there to push me to my limits,” says teammate Alex Cole, a 12-year-old from Washington, D.C. Carhart says soon Tomás might not be the only gymnast from Dynamite competing at the elite level: “We have a few that are trying to follow that same path.”