It was a cold November night in Boulder, Colorado, and University of Colorado cheerleader Ozell Williams set out to make tumbling history. 57 back handsprings and tens of thousands of ecstatic football fans later, he did just that.
In August of 2013, Williams went to CU spirit coordinator Lindsey Edwards with an idea of breaking a tumbling record. Travis Putnam of the school’s marketing department submitted an application for Williams and, four weeks later, the Guinness Book of World Records accepted it.
“I didn’t even think there was a record (for tumbling) that could be broken,” Williams admitted. “I always thought about it, but I never implemented it. Basically, the opportunity presented itself and I was like, ‘I’ve been working on that since I was young.’ I said I definitely wanted to give it a shot.”
The paperwork was filled out, the date was set, and the unsuspecting football fans had no idea what they were about to witness. The week before Colorado’s home game against USC, Williams hit the field to practice for his performance. He easily hit over 50 handsprings, but he could not do any more because he ran out of room on the sidelines of Folsom Field.
“I guess you could say it was something that popped out and became a dream for an opportunist to take and basically overachieve, and kind of create a stepping stool of let’s have fun and see where our ability takes us,” he said.
On the appointed day, gymnastics coaches acted as expert witnesses to validate the attempt to Guinness. Their sole job was to count the handsprings.
When it came time for Williams to attempt the record for real, he started at the northwest corner of the field and headed southeast. Going in, he knew he had to get at least 46 back handsprings to claim the title. As he was flipping down the field, thousands of fans counted along as he completed handspring after handspring.
“In my head, I was trying to be subtle, and I was trying to be calm,” he said. “This is something I do every day, except I’m doing it in front of thousands of fans, teammates, and everything else. I actually had family and friends there to help push me to succeed in my goal.”
When he reached the 46th mark, the crowd erupted with excitement. But he kept going.
“Hearing the crowd, the fan in the stands, everybody was real pumped,” he said. “I was nervous, but I went out there and I tried to keep my composure…I was able to go out there, do my thing, and shine.”
In the end, Williams was able to blow the old Guinness world record out of the water and completed 57 back handsprings. Although he achieved the feat on November 23, the Guinness Book of World Records made it official just last week: Williams is the sole owner of the most consecutive handsprings record in the male category.
His record-setting performance came less than two weeks after Early, Texas resident Tim Wade, 17, broke the previous record of 44 with 46. Naturally, he would have hoped to hold the record this time after someone else stripped him of the same title in 2012. But his glory was short-lived this time.
Although Williams has held onto the record for a solid six months now, he said he hopes to break his own record again, when the weather is a little warmer. The temperatures were in the teens during his first attempt back in November.
“I’ll always say the cold played a factor on slowing me down,” Williams said. “I definitely could have done more. I might try again to break my own record or to break somebody else’s record that’s really cool out there.
“I actually applaud everyone who actually goes for it, because it actually shows what we love and how much we love it.”
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