Born: Zurich, Switzerland
Do women really prefer diamonds? Perhaps, but Alexandra Nicholson prefers gold and gold she won. She is described as the “The Greatest Woman Trampolinist” in the history of the sport. In over 200 U.S. National Championships and international competitions, she was defeated on only a few occasions, most of the time, she took home the Gold Medal.
Alexandra was born to racially mixed parents. Her father, Merickston, is from Trinidad and Tobago, and her mother is from Knittlefeld, Austria. Alexandra wittily describes herself as “Swiss chocolate.” After immigrating to America, Alexandra’s first home was in Buffalo, NY but, eight years later, the family settled in Rockford, Illinois, (1965).
Her father became the town’s first minority physician establishing a medical practice in Oncology and Internal Medicine. Alexandra started trampoline classes and competed at Bob Bollinger’s Trampoline Town USA for six years. Her first competition was in the 11-12 National AAU Age-Group Championships where she defeated the local favorite for the Gold Medal, LaFayette, LA, (1968).
World Trampoline Championships
Gold, Stuttgart, Germany, (1972); Gold, Johannesburg, South Africa, (1974).
International ‘Nissen Eterna’ Cup Trampoline Championships: Gold-Elite Women’s ‘Open’ Division, Grenchen, Switzerland, (1971).
Nicholson set the tone for present-day acrobatic moves being the first ever, male or female, to successfully complete the extremely difficult acrobatic movement called a triffis, a triple forward somersault with a half twist. Her acrobatic routine in the competitions at the time also contained the highest degree of difficulty among males and females. During her time, no trampolinist had completed a higher degree of difficulty. She was the last U.S. competitor to have won a gold medal in International Trampoline Competition.
Her skill and love of competition took her all over the world competing against great Soviet trampolinists, East German champions, Romanians, et al. Nicholson attended UCLA on an athletic scholarship and competed on the Bruin’s gymnastic, diving, and track and long-jump teams eventually becoming a member of the U.S. Diving Team.
She performed at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden with Olga Korbit, on the Mike Douglas Show, with the Harlem Globetrotters, at Buckingham Palace in London for a younger Queen Elizabeth, as the featured half-time entertainment during the Los Angeles Lakers basketball games, and in the movie, Billy Jack.
Alexandra represented the state of Illinois as the official delegate to the “Miss Black Teenage America Pageant”. She won the talent portion of the contest doing a flag-waving trampoline routine to the tune of Yankee Doodle and finished with a Bronze in the overall competition, (1971). It is interesting to note the first Black Miss America Pageant was held in 1968 and promoted because of the lack of black participants in the Miss America Contest. Alexandra was a nominee for the “James E. Sullivan Award”. She was inducted into the Acrobatic Society’s “Gallery of Legends”, (2001).
Alexandra reportedly helped to create and is probably part owner of the internationally famous Maruba Resort Jungle Spa where she works in a consulting and administrative capacity. She is also busy promoting her business interests in skin and beauty products.
A major problem for Alexandra started when it was discovered by an AAU official at the annual Sarasota Gymnastics Clinic that Alexandra was not a U.S. citizen even though she had all but four months of her life in America and thought of herself only as an American. Shortly thereafter, she began to have problems when it came to AAU competitions since there was a “Citizenship Requirement” rule.
She did receive the OK to participate in AAU competitions, but it appears that there were a number of incidents where she did not compete because it appeared that some people on the AAU Trampoline Committee did not wish to have her compete regardless of the ruling by the National Body. Much of this adversity was in the form of harassment and probably a violation of her Civil Liberties.
Fortunately, Alexandra had supporters in both the AAU and in the U.S. Congress. They, of course, wanted to see her compete for the U.S. not only in national but international competitions as well. Eventually, after a great effort by her supporters, it came to pass that Alexandra could compete both domestically and internationally.
She subsequently received U.S. citizenship. In a 1972 article of unknown origin, it was stated that “ . . . it is difficult to believe, indeed, to appreciate the amount of composure and positive attitude that she (Alexandra) has been able to maintain throughout the whole series of (citizen & competition) events.” She competed from 1968 until 1976 rarely defeated, a most amazing accomplishment.
Sources: Who’s Who in Gymnastics, 2005 by Jerry Wright, , and verbal interviews with additional sources. Special insights shared by Abie Grossfeld, 1979 Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee and affectionately called “The walking gymnastics encyclopedia” by those who know him well. Introduction by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.