RICHMOND HILL — The days leading up to Aug. 3, 2012 dragged on forever.
Jason Burnett thought only about his strict diet, rigorous training, and attention to every small detail to make sure that day would be perfect.
In front of 20,000 people at North Greenwich Arena, the 25-year old made an error. All eyes on him, he posted just a fraction of the score he needed to make the podium at the 2012 Olympics Games in London.
A bad bounce forced him to stop his difficult trampoline routine before he’d had a chance to begin. He finished eighth.
Barely 24 hours later, he was back at the venue, watching his Canadian teammates Rosie MacLennan and Karen Cockburn take their turns in the final.
“As soon as I saw Rosie go out there and win a gold medal, and Karen come so close to getting her fourth Olympic medal, any issues I had were just wiped away,” said Burnett, at Skyriders Trampoline Place on Sunday night.
“It was about them, all of a sudden. All I wanted to do was go and celebrate … and have a good time with them because they’re out there doing amazing things.”
The three Olympians are friends, not because they wear the same denim jacket worn around the athlete’s village by their fellow Canadian teammates.
They all train together at Skyriders in Richmond Hill under Canadian National Team Head Coach, Dave Ross.
Burnett has been trampolining for 15 years. He can remember his first time on the trampoline; he already had a knack for it after his two years as an artistic gymnast.
“As a young gymnast, they make you do all sorts of conditioning,” Burnett said. “I was a pretty strong 10 year old when I first stepped into the trampoline gym, which really helped with the coordination and balance. It took off from there.”
The trampolining community is small. With a field of just 16 men, and 16 women at the Olympic contest, Burnett considers the elite athletes in his sport to all be friends, regardless of any language barriers that exist.
International competition is the ultimate stage to break boundaries and grow. Whether it’s fostering friendships, or taking part in a late-night fencing match.
“I thought one of the really cool things about the London Games was the rooming situation,” said Burnett, one of only two Canadian male gymnasts at the Games.
“We were sharing an apartment with two volleyball players and two fencers. I know nothing about volleyball or fencing, so it was really cool to meet them, get to know their sports a little bit, and go out (with them).”
“At about three in the morning, we took out the fencing swords and had a little fun,” Burnett said, laughing as he talked about the experience. “Maybe not the best idea.”
Coming home was welcomed, but not easy. The everyday is a big change from the atmosphere at the XXX Olympiad. This training session is one of his first since his return from London.
“You really felt like a celebrity in the city for those ten days and it was amazing,” Burnett said.
“Obviously it’s great to go see your family and your friends again, but it’s just not the same as being in London, where you have that little Olympic pass. You can wave it in front of everyone and they understand who you are; you get a little special treatment here and there.”
Within the four walls and the sky-high ceilings at the gym, everyone understands who Burnett is.
He’s broken his own record for difficulty in a routine in competition. He’s stood on an Olympic podium in Beijing to collect a silver medal. He’s someone that younger gymnasts look to learn from.
“If they ask you a question, you always want to give them the most positive answer you can,” said Burnett, of his status as a role model. “You’ve always got to be positive about everything.”
(Second part of a three-part series.)