Jack Walsh jumps into conversation with Olympic trampoline gymnast Jason Burnett
As an international and Olympic trampoline gymnast for team Canada, Jason Burnett has always lived by a single motto: “Go big or go home.” A clichéd phrase, it has still emphasised the Olympic Silver medallist’s rise in the sport from a competitive and technical standpoint, holding several world records in terms of difficulty.
The Skyriders’ product is proud of using that phrase as a benchmark of what he knows he can achieve, saying that “it’s definitely what I strive for as a gymnast. I chose this identity for myself because my skill set is my strength. My form and height are acceptable for international competition, but my degree of difficulty is what can really set me apart.”
Burnett recently walked away with first place at the 2013 Elite Canada competition in Quebec. Describing his stature in the competitive field in Canada, Burnett says that he is “still the dominant male athlete in Canada and if I complete a good routine it is very difficult for the other athletes to challenge me.”
On the international level, Burnett is still one of the big dogs. This allowed him to remain calm during the Beijing Olympics, describing that time as one of “extreme focus”, explaining that “of course you are nervous in the moment of competition, but the degree of focus pushes that aside. The only thing I could think about is that I had to do the routine of my life if I wanted a medal. That’s all that went through my head once the initial nervousness had passed.”
His favourite moment as a competitor, aside from his Olympic silver medal in Beijing, happened in 2007, when he “broke the world record for the hardest routine completed in competition (17.5). This was a 20 year-old record previously held by a Russian athlete. The day I broke this record was very special to me.”
As a record holder, Burnett knows his crown can be threatened at all times. In order to combat this, he says he would like to “improve upon both my world records this year (the 18.8 in competition, and the 20.6 in training). I have plans for both, but I’m not ready to give anything away just yet.”
But it’s not all about the trampoline for Burnett, as he spent some time as a stunt man when he was in his early twenties. “I made some lucky connections with stunt coordinators while doing trampoline shows and they began to offer me auditions. The most notable film I have performed in is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where I stunt doubled for Michael Cera in his first fight scene.”
A religion and theology student at the University of Toronto, Burnett knows that “Canadian athletes can find plenty of support once they have proven themselves at international competitions, but it can be difficult to find support as a young athlete.”
He encourages young athletes to keep training hard, explaining that his own routine depends on the time of his season. “When I am a few months out of a competition I do high volume weights and routines (anywhere from 4-8 optional routines in a practice), and when I am a few weeks or days away from competition, I taper all my workouts. I do very low volume right before a competition because I want my body to be fresh and I have already put in all the hard work.”
Burnett’s most prized and difficult routines are not often performed, but he prides himself on the consistently high levels he performs at. He says: “I know I am capable of doing more than the average competitor and I use this strength to my advantage. My coach, Dave Ross, always told me that if you are good at something you should always push the limits in order to distance yourself from other competitors.”
Dissecting the primary competition in the international stage, Burnett concedes that “China clearly has the top athletes in the sport right now. As far as I can tell, they have a sport system allows for their athletes to focus completely on sport, without having to worry too much about education or jobs. Their form, DD (degree of difficulty), and height are usually superior to most other athletes, but I believe that is due to the volume of their training.”
He warns of the pitfalls many new athletes to the sport can fall in to, including failing to practice the basic fundamentals of the discipline; explaining that “people lose skills because they don’t practice their progressions.
“I think the most important technical aspect of trampoline is being able to spot the bed very well in all of your skills. I am very confident when I perform all of my skills because I know how to spot the bed well, and that can also save your life if you space and bail out of a skill. Knowing how to fall is extremely important for trampoline, and knowing how to spot the bed helps you land safely.”
Finally, Burnett offered up some advice that extends far beyond the trampoline; “Everyone will have fear, and everyone will have to find their own way to get over it. If you can’t get over your fear, then you won’t go far.”