Reisig, a sophomore at Montana State University in the fall, looks like he might have a jet-propelled assist while he's jumping. Perhaps the MSU sophomore in mechanical engineering has devised invisible machinery to help him. It seems almost plausible as you watch his back-flips and four-foot-high levitations.
This isn't the usual child's playground game, and it's not the aesthetically limited aerobic training you've seen boxers do in movies. The classic boxer jumping rope is similar to the speed jumping portion of competitive jump rope. The other competitive event is freestyle.
Freestyle is adding whole-body strength and agility to the already highly aerobic sport. As a reporter for "The Baltimore Sun" put it, jumping rope is becoming "more hip-hop cool than playground plain."
In July, Reisig and his team, the Rocky Mountain Ropers, will attend the international jumping competition on Australia's Gold Coast. He's attended five United States national competitions, all at Walt Disney World. His freestyle stunts in the national finals were covered on the ESPN sports channel. There are competitive jump rope teams all over the world, from Spain and Hungary to India, Kenya and Singapore.
"Freestyle is the focus of our team," says Reisig. "We're not bad at speed, but freestyle is what we're best at."
Speed jumpers alternate which foot hits the ground, and the record is 167 "right foot" jumps in a minute (334 jumps overall).
Freestyle jumping, on the other hand, adds an amazing variety of moves, from back-flips and hand-stands adapted from gymnastics to pushups and other moves. These are completed while still jumping. Competitors may twirl their own rope or have two other people twirling. When two ropes are alternated in a crisscross fashion, it's called Double Dutch.
In 2003, Reisig took two gold medals in speed events in his age group of 18 and over, and silver medals in singles and pairs freestyle at nationals.
Reisig describes himself simply as "not bad" at speed events, even though he won the gold medals. "There were two really good people who weren't there," he said.
"I have a lot of passion to practice," he says, "and I've always made up new insane tricks that no one's ever been able to do." Last year his new trick in Double Dutch Pairs competition with 15-year-old Pete Caracciolo, also of Bozeman, started with the two of them doing push-ups in Double Dutch, culminating when Caracciolo jumped onto Reisig's back, and Reisig cleared the roped again in a push-up.
This year, Reisig and his sister, Ali, 17, are upping the surprise factor with plans to have Lee do a front flip from Ali's shoulders while she's in push-up position. In addition to the Reisigs and Caracciolo, the team of five includes Callie DeMay, 17, and Caitlin Weaver, 15. All are from the Bozeman area.
Reisig's parents, Teri and Jerry, are big supporters. His mother was the team coach when he first learned about competitive jumping, but, he adds, "I wasn't into it then." Finally, Reisig says a man named Dan Cool became his inspiration. Known as "Double Under Dan" for his specialty -- repeatedly taking the rope twice under his feet on each jump -- "for the first time, he broke the stereotype that jumping rope is for girls." Now the sport is on to "triple-unders" and generally double-unders aren't even done in competition.
Reisig hopes the sport becomes an Olympic event, and is working with people from the United States Amateur Jump Rope Federation and the American Double Dutch League to work out a universal judging system. That's a precursor to any hope of adding jumping as an Olympic sport, since right now the U.S. and European judging methods don't match.
Reisig's eyes spark when he talks about dreaming up "insane power moves" to complement the more common, though still amazing, back-flips and four-foot-high levitations.
Reisig says he "definitely" uses his mechanical engineering in working on new moves.
"I can visualize the tricks better because of studying, and then can visualize what I'm studying because of the tricks. It's kind of circular," he says.
Lee Reisig (406) 586-1905