Sydney Jackson’s first unofficial attempt to land one of the Guinness World Records ended with her legs completely falling asleep after roughly 20 minutes of doing the splits. It was then that the young gymnast from Cartersville decided to find a different mark she could best.
That’s when she came across the record for most backward walkovers in 30 seconds while scrolling the Guinness World Records website. The move requires going from a standing position into a backbend, followed by a flip into a handstand split and back into a standing position — all while keeping at least one hand or foot on the ground at all times.
“I was pretty positive that I could beat it,” Sydney, 10, said. “I attempted it, and on my first try, I beat it by one. That got me into practicing some more to beat it by a lot.”
According to her mother, Heather, that initial attempt took place last fall in the front yard at Sydney’s grandmother’s house. In a half-minute, she managed to successfully complete 20 backward walkovers, a move she mastered less than a year prior. Afterwards, her family began the long application process for Sydney to have the chance to officially challenge the record.
A few months later, the Jacksons learned the application had been accepted. Sydney, who had been practicing the move nearly every day during the wait, attempted to break the record Jan. 15 at the home gymnasium for Cartersville Twisters, of which she’s been a member for five years. The Twisters coaches paused practice that evening for Sydney’s attempt.
There were several requirements, including guidelines about where the attempt needed to take place. On hand that evening were two expert witnesses, two time keepers and a photographer. A slow-motion video and a regular-speed video were also needed to properly assess the attempt.
As soon as her time started, Sydney quickly began chasing down the record. With the previous record at 19, she wound up crushing the mark, racking up 24 backward walkovers in 30 seconds.
The remarkable performance stunned everyone inside the gym.
“We didn’t expect that at all,” Heather admitted. “Every time she had attempted it at home, I think the most she had gotten was 21. When she got to 24, everybody was shocked.”
Even Sydney had gone above and beyond what she had anticipated for herself. Although, she thinks she could have done even better given how well she was doing.
“I was at least going for 21 or 22,” Sydney said. “I noticed I had some more time, so I just kept going. I was almost at 25. But the timer had gone off right before I came back up, so it didn’t count the last one.”
Sydney began taking gymnastics classes as an 18-month-old in Texas. Heather said Sydney showed some natural talent early on, and although she was far from being a prodigy, her incredible flexibility led to a love of contortionism.
“She was always a super busy kid, always moving around and seemed to be pretty athletic,” Heather said. “Wanted her to have an outlet to get out some of that energy.”
Heather and her husband are originally from Rockmart, so when they moved back to Georgia and settled in Cartersville, they signed Sydney up for the city’s gymnastics program. According to Heather, after about six months of taking recreational classes, Sydney was asked to join the competitive team and has since reached platinum level status.
With roughly 13 hours of practice time a week, gymnastics is definitely a big time commitment for Sydney, who attends Cartersville Elementary School. However, Heather has seen the sport help instill many great qualities in her daughter, including the drive to etch her name in the Guinness World Records.
“It’s amazing to think that she gets an idea in her mind and she puts forth the effort to make things like that happen,” Heather said. “I think gymnastics has played a big role in that kind of mindset of pushing through hard things and never giving up. She’s learned a lot of good lessons from that.”
Hopefully, one of those lessons involved patience, because even after successfully beating the record, it wasn’t until last week — five months after the attempt — when Sydney found out she had officially been awarded the title. That day, her mother surprised her at practice with the official certificate recognizing her achievement.
“It was a great relief just to know we had completed all the steps and requirements that Guinness puts in place for you to actually be able to attempt it,” Heather said. “It’s pretty stringent. …
“I’m super excited that she was able to have that certainty that she had achieved it.”
Sydney said it’s “really cool” that she can see her own name now when she goes on the Guinness World Records site. Although, there's even more records out there without her name on them that she could possibly attempt to beat. Next up might be the mark for most forward walkovers in 30 seconds, which is currently 27.
For now, Sydney will cherish the record she does hold, because even though her certificate would have arrived much sooner had it not been for the COVID-19 outbreak, the extended wait didn’t make the moment she found out any less thrilling.
“It was actually really fun,” Sydney said. “I was still very excited about it.”