By Jason Burnett
On October 1st of 2014 I tore my ACL. During training I crashed, falling 25 feet and landing on my side. As soon as I hit the ground I felt a release sensation in my knee. This marked the beginning of my most challenging Olympic journey.
The ACL is a major knee ligament that connects your femur to your tibia/fibula. Without it, the knee is joint becomes very unstable, and repairing it requires surgery and 8-10 months of recovery. This news scares me. I would have to go 8-10 months without trampoline. And the Olympic qualifier was just over a year away. I wouldn't be able to train for most of that year. What if it wasn't enough?
I couldn’t solve this problem on my own, but thankfully I had a great team behind me. My surgeon repaired my ACL. Athletic therapists and osteopaths helped me recover. S&C, Pilates, and trampoline coaches helped me regain strength and skills. We focused on recovery for the next 8 months and by June 2015 I was back on the trampoline. I made a full recovery thanks to my team!
But one day in September, I felt my knee wobble while I was jumping. It didn’t hurt very much, but it kept happening over and over. It was causing me to miss a lot of training and the Olympic qualifier (2015 World Championships) was coming up soon, so we decide to get another MRI. I got the results 4 days before we left for Worlds. I’ve torn my ACL again!
When I hear this news I’m shocked. I’m back at the beginning. I need another surgery. Recovery is another 8-10 months. But Worlds is only 4 days away. There wasn’t time for surgery, but my team had an idea. They could stabilize my knee with a tape job.
We traveled to Worlds 4 days later. My team was there to support me and helped me stay focused on the competition. Thanks to them I placed 18th and we were on the road to Rio!
I trained for another 8 months without an ACL and completed the qualification process. Just getting to Rio was a victory in itself! On the day of competition, I had a strong compulsory, but struggled with instability on my optional. In the end, I placed 14th out of 16 athletes. But I don’t remember Rio for the results. I remember Rio because my team helped me overcome numerous obstacles, and together we earned the chance to represent Canada at the Olympics Games.
Sport has been a huge part of my life. Over the past three Olympics Games I have had three very different experiences. They weren’t all what I expected them to be, but there is value in the good and the bad. By jumping on a trampoline I have been through highs and lows, and these experiences have helped me determine what a happy medium looks like for me. The more you experience, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the more capable you are of making the right decisions for yourself in the future. The values of the Canadian Olympic Committee say it best by reminding us that “the life skills and experience obtained through athletic preparation, competition and teamwork are far more valuable than any medal ever awarded”.