Rosie MacLennan Returns to the Top Step of Podium, Repeating as Olympic Trampoline champion
RIO DE JANEIRO — Rosie MacLennan was in a dark, frightening place, where memories of Olympic glory seemed distant and dreams seemed unattainable.
It was only five months ago that MacLennan finally started to feel safe and normal and could once again focus on her athletic exploits.
On Friday, her remarkable journey from the depths of dizzying, pain-inducing, vision-impairing concussions brought her all the way back to the top of the Olympic podium.
MacLennan won gold in the women’s trampoline competition at Rio Olympic Arena, retaining the title she captured in London in 2012 and becoming the first Canadian to win back-to-back gold in the same event at the Summer Games.
“My eyes were shaking and if you can’t spot the trampoline you don’t know where you are and I was afraid of getting lost in my skills,” MacLennan said, describing symptoms she was still feeling until mid-March. “Fear was absolutely a factor. That uncertainty took a long time to get back. I was terrified about some of my skills, but over the course of time you build that confidence.”
The 27-year-old from King City, Ont. originally suffered the concussion on the trampoline, over-rotating a skill in training, and exacerbated it when she was hit in the head with a car door.
She had to face the very real possibility she would never get back to the Olympics to defend her title.
“There was a lot of time where I didn’t know if I’d get to the world championships, which was our qualification for the Olympics,” she said. “I didn’t know how it would affect my training. There was a lot of uncertainty, but in those moments, I had an incredible group of people around me, supporting me, cheering me on, giving me strength.”
Rosie MacLennan became the 12th Canadian to win two or more gold medals in Summer Olympics history. She is also just the third, next to women’s rowing pair Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle, to win gold in two Summer Olympic Games.
George Hodgson, swimming, 1912
Percy Willliams, athletics, 1928
Alex Baumann, swimming, 1984
Carolyn Waldo, synchronized swimming, 1988
Kay Worthington, rowing, 1992
Brenda Taylor, rowing, 1992
Kirsten Barnes, rowing, 1992
Jessica Monroe, rowing, 1992
Donovan Bailey, athletics, 1996
Rosie MacLennan, trampoline, 2012, 2016
Marnie McBean, rowing, 1992, 1996
Kathleen Heddle, rowing, 1992, 1996
MacLennan captured the gold medal Friday with a safe, effective routine that gave her more points than even the two athletes who finished ahead of her in the qualifying round.
After she completed her final routine, putting up a score of 56.465, she had to watch as Li Dan of China and Tatsiana Piatrenia of Belarus competed, with a chance to bump her off the top of the podium. As stressful as it was to watch, MacLennan took it in stride, knowing she’d already secured at least a bronze.
“No matter what, I would have been so excited and so happy,” she said. “The journey to get back here was a tough one. I would have been so grateful for any outcome.”
The victory came despite the fact she didn’t attempt her most difficult routine.
“I held back, I did my easy routine,” MacLennan said. “I was a lot more confident in it. The other one was a little shaky and we knew it would be a bit of a gamble and the Olympics isn’t a time to gamble.”
MacLennan’s gold was the second for Canada in Rio — swimmer Penny Oleksiak won the first on Thursday night — and the ninth medal overall. All of them have been won by women.
“I think that’s awesome,” she said. “We have an incredible group of women down here and I hope it inspires a new generation of athletes and encourages women to stay in sport.”
As she accepted her gold medal on the podium, the look on her face was one of pure elation. British silver medallist Bryony Page was overcome with emotion and Chinese bronze medallist Li Dan looked overwhelmed by the situation, but MacLennan had been there before and her thoughts were drifting to the people who have been standing by her.
Her family was there, including her parents John and Jane, her brothers Matthew and Michael, her sister Katherine, their spouses, her niece, two aunts, their husbands, her boyfriend and two friends.
“It meant the world,” she said. “Just knowing they were there. They’ve been here the entire journey. They were the ones who kept my chin up when things were uncertain.”
MacLennan even found a way to put a positive spin on the injury that almost kept her away from the Olympics.
“It was a reminder of how much I really do love the sport,” she said. “Because, if I didn’t, I would have given up.”
Cool under pressure, consistent, tough and motivated.
Those were some of the words coach Dave Ross used to describe Rosie MacLennan after she won the gold medal in trampoline at her second straight Olympics.
“She had a very rough ride between London and now,” Ross said as MacLennan accepted her medal on the podium at the Rio Olympic Arena. “But she’s the first trampolinist in history to be a repeat medallist. We weren’t really expecting it. We were hoping it would happen but we weren’t expecting it.”
MacLennan was the third-last competitor to perform in the final on Friday, a fact that wound up working to her advantage.
“It was possible the other two girls could have passed her score but I think they were feeling the pressure that she put on them,” Ross said.
“They didn’t have great routines like she did. The rules don’t reward brilliance, they deduct for mistakes. She just made the fewest mistakes. The other girls did some skills just as brilliantly as Rosie but they had bad ones too and that’s what set her apart.”