Bouncing her way to the Olympic Games

By: Jamie Bertolini
Photo: James Heaslip

Rosie (Rosannagh) MacLennan, 23, began trampoline lessons for the first time when she was just six-years-old. For her, though, it wasn’t as soon as she would’ve hoped. Being the youngest of four siblings, she had to watch from the stands when they were old enough to switch from gymnastics to trampoline, while she wasn’t.

“Being the fourth child, she was always trying to keep up with everyone,” says MacLennan’s mom Jane. “She always thought she should be able to do what all the others were doing. Because she was younger, it didn’t matter.”

Jane, MacLennan’s dad John, grandmother Jean, and family friend Bob MacDonald speak about how they had her in water-skis at the cottage when she was only 18-months-old. As MacLennan grew, so did her goals.

“Rosie was keen on getting into the competitive program,” says Jane, explaining that her brothers had already begun to bounce competitively. At nine years old, she was finally able to.
Today, MacLennan is on Canada’s national trampoline team and getting ready to compete in her second Olympic Games taking place this summer in London, England.

MacLennan graduated from the University of Toronto in a Health and Physical Education Program. She spread her studies over five years so she would be able to balance school with her rigorous training schedule.

MacLennan says she is most excited for the opportunity to represent Canada for the second time.

“The whole experience of just watching other sports and seeing other Canadians and cheering them on is really fun too,” she says. “But having the chance to compete in front of such a big crowd, knowing the number of supporters you have – and having the chance to compete at that level – is kind of what you’re working towards.”

MacLennan placed second at the annual Trampoline and Tumbling World Championships in Birmingham, England in November 2011. Competitors who place in the top eight spots are guaranteed a spot in the Olympics. MacLennan and her teammates, as well as Olympic medalists Karen Cockburn and Jason Burnett (pictured above), qualified three spots for the Canadian national team.

A few weeks before the world championships, MacLennan also attended and placed first at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She describes the Pan Am Games as the second largest multi-sporting event in the world, after the Olympics.

“It’s really a good experience because it’s still in a major stadium and it’s still a bigger crowd, and I guess you get the experience of another multi-sport event before the Games,” she notes. “I think that helped us at World’s because we had really recent experience with the bigger crowd and more pressure in that sense.”

MacLennan trains six-days-a-week to keep herself in top condition for upcoming competitions. She says she trains anywhere from two to seven hours a day, doing a variety of workouts. She is on the trampoline at Skyriders Trampoline Place in Richmond Hill, nine-times-a-week. Twice, she is in a strength and conditioning gym, with one or two intervals on a bike. She also does two sessions of Pilates and takes a ballet class, to help with footwork and calf-strengthening. During her trampoline practices, MacLennan says she begins her training with a warm-up. She then works on drills and technical turns to improve specific skills, or tricks on the trampoline. She also practises different routines and even sets aside times to learn new skills.

“When you’re learning a skill at our gym, we have a couple of tools we use, like the belt or the bungee,” she says. “You have really little impact on the tramp so you can kind of manoeuvre in the air and figure out the special awareness of it.”

Skyriders’ “Supertramp” is another tool that helps trampolinists work on these tricks, as well as helping to maintain height. According to the Rebound Products’ website, founded by Dave Ross – who is also the coach of the Canadian national trampoline team – the “Supertramp” is a one-of-a-kind 13-by-21-foot trampoline. It was permanently installed at Skyriders in 1990, after it was used for a demonstration at the Reach for the Sky trampoline festival in the mid-1980s.

As the Olympic Games get closer, practising routines for the competition becomes more and more important for MacLennan. At the moment, MacLennan says she is 90 per cent certain of the sequences for her qualifying routine and final routine, should she make it that far.

“I have a dream routine that I would love to do but I don’t think it’s worth the risk so I’m still kind of working on it in the back of my mind, and if it somehow magically clicks, then I would do that,” she explains.

Aiming for the Olympics is something MacLennan has been doing for most of her life.

“I wanted to compete in the Olympics like any kid says ‘I want to be an astronaut’,” remarks MacLennan.

Her mom, Jane, recalls her daughter writing stories about the Olympics and watching the Games on TV.

MacLennan’s goal became a reality and something she really started working towards in 2000, when trampoline first became an Olympic sport. It made its debut as a sport at the summer games in Sydney, Australia. The Canadian team qualified two spots, and the two athletes, Karen Cockburn and Mathieu Turgeon went home with bronze medals. Cockburn is the only trampolinist in the world who has won a medal at every Olympic Games event she has attended, MacLennan says.

MacLennan comes from a very athletic family. One of her brothers and her sister managed to make it to the national team, which MacLennan is currently on – until their interests in the sport changed. Her brother had school conflicts and her sister started sailing competitively. Her mother competed in figure skating before having children. Her grandfather and biggest role model, Lorne Patterson, qualified for the Olympics for gymnastics in 1940. Unfortunately, the Second World War broke out and he was never able to compete.

“I was living something that he never really got the chance to,” says MacLennan.

Later, when it would be MacLennan’s time to shine during her first Olympic Games in Beijing, her hope was that her grandfather could watch her. Patterson died two weeks before MacLennan would compete in the biggest competition of her life.

MacLennan had a huge support system heading into the Beijing Olympics.

“We made it a trip to China, so that it could take the pressure off of Rosie,” Jane says.

MacLennan came third in the qualification round, allowing her to advance to finals, where she placed seventh overall.

“This time around, she plans to practise both routines, so that she can be more confident in that stage of the competition.

MacLennan says a lot of her preparation for this summer’s Olympic Games in London comes down to keeping it all in perspective. Her mother and coach give her the same advice: “Your ability as an athlete isn’t really defined by one competition; it’s kind of the whole journey,” says MacLennan. “So if you’re doing it for the right reasons – you’re enjoying training, you’re enjoying what you’re doing – then it takes a lot of pressure off that final outcome of that one competition.”

MacLennan is grateful to her parents who made certain that if there was anything she wanted to accomplish, she could. Money is a large issue that can sometimes quash young athletes, notes MacLennan’s mother.

“We allowed each child to take each sport to the level they wanted to take it,” she says. “We were fortunate enough to be able to do that. Luckily, trampoline is a relatively cheap sport.” Trampolinists only require a pair of socks, shorts and a T-shirt to practise in, as opposed to other sports like hockey.

MacLennan says now that she is older, her family really only travels with her to see the bigger competitions like the Olympics in Beijing. They also plan to be there this summer in London.

The Olympics was something MacLennan valued, and it was one of her “ultimate goals,” she tells me; but it was never the reason she continued the sport.
“At the end of the day you don’t do the sport to get to the Olympics . . . you do it because it is fun,” says MacLennan.

When I ask what she loves about the sport in general, she answers, “Everything. The challenge, exercise, feeling of jumping, exhilaration of learning new things and pushing your limits, the people, [and] the opportunity to travel the world.”

Though MacLennan has reached the top, she hasn’t set an end date to competing in the sport she loves.

“I believe that there is a lot more in the sport for me, and while I have reached a high level,” she says. “There is so much of that journey still left, more limits to be pushed and heights to be reached.”

One Response to “Bouncing her way to the Olympic Games”
  1. Kimberley Noble says:

    Kudos to Rosie MacLennan for winning Canada’s first gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics and Jamie B. and the Emerge team for recognizing a great story when they saw one!

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