I was really struck by how composed and unshaken Jason Burnett was while speaking to us after crashing out during his routine in the Olympic trampoline final. Not only had he just fallen from a terrifying height, but his four years of training had just ended in most stunning fashion.
Burnett was attempting to do the most difficult routine in the Olympic competition, one that would have earned him an 18.2 for difficulty. That's the athlete he is -- degree of difficulty is where he earns his points. It's his best shot of contending against men who earn more points for jumping higher and executing better.
Canada's coach, Dave Ross, who runs Skyriders Trampoline Place where the Canadian Olympic trio trains, said some really interesting things about how the sport has developed since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and speculated about where it's headed. I realized in a big way why Burnett was attempting such a risky routine today.
Ross pointed out some telling numbers. At the 2008 Olympics, the winning routine by China's Lu Chunlong had a difficulty score of 16.6. Fast-forward to the 2012 Olympics, and that kind of degree of difficulty score was achieved by the very lowest qualifiers in Friday's competition. The winning routine by China's Dong Dong got a 17.8 score for difficulty. The skill-level is growing by leaps and bounds.
By the time the 2016 Olympics rolls around, Ross expects Burnett will need something far beyond an 18.2 in difficulty to return to the podium.
As reporters, we tried to pull out reasons for the crash. Was he injured? Was he nervous?
Did he lose focus? Was he just attempting to do too much? Burnett and Ross had no problem explaining what happened. It was simple science -- he just over-rotated ever so slightly, and it all went wrong.
That just happens sometimes in the sport they love.
Without skipping a beat, Burnett vowed to return for the 2016 Olympics. After heartbreak like that, you could forgive an athlete if he was questioning why he does what he does. Burnett didn't seem to be questioning anything. It didn't seem to tough his love for trampoline one bit.