As Heger rose to the top of U.S. trampolining in the 1980s, however, the sport continued to fall. Heger was lucky to find three meets a year, and he regularly won national titles in front of only handfuls of spectators.
After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a degree in criminal justice in 1986, Heger caught the best bounce of his career when he successfully lobbied the Army for a posting in Germany and began training with the German national team. One of the Germans who helped overhaul his technique was Ute Harz, who was ranked ninth worldwide among female trampolinists in 1988. "He had to relearn what he had taught himself in his backyard," says Harz.
The more Heger flipped with the Germans, the more he flipped over Harz. They understood each other as only fellow trampolinists could. How many brides, Heger asks, would laugh at the stunt he pulled during their 1988 wedding? Wearing his full military uniform, he said his vows and, joined by his best man, English trampoline star Richard Cobbing, promptly dismounted off the altar in reverse tuck position.
Heger dominated European double minitramp meets from 1987 to '89. But it was on the regular trampoline that he made his most memorable leap, in the Two-Trick Spectacular at the 1989 Nissen Cup in Switzerland. The crowd of about 1,500, huge by U.S. standards, started chanting: "HAY-gah! HAY-gah! HAY-gah!" Heger called for an extra crash pad and then became the first person known to uncork a quad cody at an international event.
Heger approaches the sport with more caution these days, for Ute has decreed that sane training will be the example set for their already-flipping sons: Kevin, 7, and K.J., 3. The Hegers practice at a Rock-ford gym with crash pads, spotters and safety harnesses, equipment that for years has made the trampoline a relatively safe training aide for gymnasts and divers. "If anything," Heger says of his transition from daredevil to FBI agent, "I've channeled my craziness from the sport into my intensity on the raids."
Sounds like bad news for the crooks.