When Rosie MacLennan was a child, her grandmother had an activity chart at the family cottage and insisted just like at a summer camp that they try a new skill every day.
MacLennan and her older brothers Matt and Michael, and older sister Kate, had to prove they could do an activity three times before getting to colour off a square on the chart.
MacLennan, who won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal of the London Games in trampoline on Saturday, was never counted out of things for being too young. She was water skiing at age two, and they found ways to get her paddling with tiny paddles, swimming, diving or playing tennis with the other kids, no matter how small she was.
Always the youngest, MacLennan’s family, from King City, Ont., said she learned from the older kids but focused on always setting a new personal best.
It’s the same mindset she had Saturday as she focused not on beating the rival Chinese trampolinists, but on setting her own personal best score. Her 57.305 was a personal best for certain, good for Olympic gold, and the highest score yet for any female trampolinist.
“It kind of started with the chart – they were individually driven to accomplish new feats, because it was always about personal accomplishment,” said MacLennan’s mother Jane, relaxing with family at Canada Olympic House in London on Sunday. “We didn’t award them with a bracelet or a prize. The reward was knowing you did it.”
MacLennan started trampoline at age seven, made Ontario’s team by nine and was competing internationally by 11. All four MacLennan kids did trampoline at Skyriders, home of Canadian coach, Dave Ross.
She watched the big kids, including Olympian Karen Cockburn – eight years older than MacLennan – and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Turgeon, who later married Cockburn.
“When Matt and Karen walked in the gym, everyone would stop and look at them because they were a big deal,” said MacLennan’s sister Kate, noting that their big brothers gave the little girls an in with the big kids.
“Rosie was the little pipsqueak and would try to tackle Matt Turgeon. They started as her idols, and once she grew up she became healthy competition, and a great friendship grew with Karen.”
MacLennan learned from Cockburn, but always maintained her own personal best. Cockburn had tallied three Olympic medals by 2008 – a bronze and two silver.
“Her goal in Beijing was really focused – to make the final, and she achieved that,” recalls her father John. “Her mindset in London was different, her confidence level was higher. She had new goals.”
In the past four years, MacLennan hit a new level – winning world cup medals, gold at the London test event and the Pan Am Games, and a silver at the world championships. She was pushing herself against Cockburn and long-time Olympian Jason Burnett too.
They did so much more off the trampoline – pilates, ballet, strength training.
But MacLennan also worked with her own trainer, James Cummins, who added strength to her frame, and did specialized work on her muscles called MAT or Muscle Activation Techniques.
With time of flight being added as a component to trampoline scoring, she and Cummins focused on specific weight training that gradually built new personal bests in jumping height.
As MacLennan took to the trampoline on Saturday in London for her final routine, some family members held their breath.
The trampoline experts in the group counted the elements. When they saw her score, they knew she had achieved her finest yet.
The group of nine from the MacLennan family watched as MacLennan arrived at interviews Saturday night with her new gold medal often tucked in her pocket.
The interviewers would ask to see it, and the humble and polite 23-year-old would graciously show it. She walked into Canada Olympic House in London’s Trafalgar Square Saturday night and was stunned to be instantly met with a spontaneous chorus of O Canada by the Canadians gathered.
“Her personal best is all she can control. In this sport, she has no control over what others do, so that has served her very well,” said her mother.
“From the get-go, she has always been good at focusing on the reward of doing her own personal best.”