By Colleen Stopforth
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – When a training accident left Rosie MacLennan with concussion a year ago, she had no idea if she would make it back to the Olympics as she had trouble spotting the trampoline because her “eyes were shaking” while she soared and somersaulted through the air.
Yet the Canadian has made it a habit of rising to the occasion whenever she sees the Olympic rings beneath and she became the first trampoline gymnast to win back-to-back golds on Friday.
“Fear was absolutely a factor… because 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 skills,” MacLennan told reporters about her struggles when she started to make her comeback.
The surprise 2012 champion had no problems finding the big red cross target on Friday as, for the second Games running, she upstaged more fancied Chinese rivals.
During qualifying earlier on Friday, the 27-year-old MacLennan trailed world champion Li Dan but she soared to the top of the podium with a gravity-defying routine in the final that started off with a half-twisting triple front somersault.
A score of 56.465 drew wild cheers from the crowd and also earned Canada a second gold in Rio.
Li followed her on to the apparatus and had been expected to leapfrog the Canadian in the standings but when her score of 55.885 flashed up, she realized that not only was she not top, she had also been pipped to the silver medal by Britain’s Bryony Page.
“In January, I was terrified of (attempting) some of my skills but over the course of time you build back confidence, build that skill back,” explained MacLennan.
“No matter how much challenge you’re faced with, I knew deep down I absolutely loved the sport and pushing through it and trying to overcome that obstacle was totally worth it.
“The journey to get back here was a tough one and I would have been grateful for any outcome.”
Luckily the outcome had a golden lining.
Page, who finished seventh in qualifying, was in floods of tears as she knelt on the floor when she realized that she had earned Britain their first ever medal in trampolining when Li failed to overtake her.
Once the last competitor, surprise qualifying leader Tatsiana Piatrenia of Belarus, had finished her routine, Page broke down again as the result confirmed she had won a silver with 56.040.
He Wenna’s hopes of becoming the first trampoline gymnast to win two Olympic golds, following her success in 2008, ended in disappointment as she missed out on bronze by 0.315 of a point.
(Writing by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Frank Pingue and Clare Fallon)