Four years ago in Beijing, Jason Burnett hit the heights, bouncing to a silver medal in men’s trampoline. But in London, he experienced the flipside of his sport, watching his chances at another Olympic podium disappear in a heartbeat.
Just seconds into his final routine, the 25-year-old from Etobicoke, ON, muffed a landing, hitting the protective mats that surround the trampoline bed and bringing an end to his dream. His score, based on the one trick he had successfully performed, instead the six he had envisioned, was just 6.715, instead of the 60-plus points it took to finish in the top 3.
“In Beijing I had an incredible experience. And now I get to experience the opposite end of the the spectrum—I failed, miserably some will say. But I think that’s a good experience to have too,” he said afterwards.
It has been a difficult few years for Burnett. In the summer of 2010, he badly broke a leg while filming a demo of some of his more difficult tricks. (Earlier that year Burnett had worked as a stunt double for Michael Cera in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and was hoping to generate some more demand for his unique aerial skills.) He still has a plate in the leg, bolted on with five screws. Not enough to set off the metal detectors at the Athletes Village, but a reminder that he still hasn’t fully healed. His coach with the Toronto Sky Riders, Dave Ross, estimates that the injuries—there’s also a torn tendon in his foot—have cost him 55 or 60 per cent of his training time in the run-up to the Games. With such obstacles, getting him back on the podium was always going to be a tall order, but they a plan. And Burnett had executed the first part well, qualifying sixth overall for the eight man final. Ross says it would have been fun to see where the full routine—with a degree of difficulty of 18.2, almost half a point higher than the assortment of tricks that won China’s Dong Dong the gold—would have placed him.
“He was going for the big routine, but he never even got to the hard part,” said Ross. The landing on the first element was a little too angled, and in his second set of flips and twists he travelled while in the air, moving the full seven feet from the centre of the trampoline to its edge. “He put his feet here instead of there, and that was it. He was done.”
Burnett says he has already decided to carry on and try for Rio in 2016. “I’ll probably take a couple of months to take a break and relax a little bit,” he says. “But that’s the plan.”
In the run-up to London, he had often watched the video of his performance in Beijing to stoke his medal dreams. Now he has another movie to watch to remind himself of a less happy lesson. That in trampoline, there are a sometimes bad bounces too.