Top trampoline stories to watch in Rio
Reigning Olympic champions return
China’s Dong Dong and Canada’s Rosie MacLennan won gold in the men’s and women’s trampoline competition at the 2012 London Olympics, and their careers have been on parallel tracks in the years since. Both finished first at the 2013 World Championships, both earned silver at the 2014 Worlds, and both fell off the podium at the 2015 Worlds. MacLennan finished in fourth, about 0.150 points behind the bronze medalist. Dong also finished fourth in the semifinal round—but since he was behind two other Chinese athletes, the two-per-country rule prevented him from advancing to the eight-person final and competing for a medal.
Chinese squad, with Olympic and world champions, likely to dominate
While Dong Dong has missed out on the world title at the last two world championships, other Chinese trampoline athletes have stepped up. Gao Lei, the 2015 World Champion, will make his Olympic debut in Rio and is the favorite for gold in the men’s trampoline event.
China’s Li Dan is the reigning world champion on the women’s side, and she is also a first-time Olympian. He Wenna will be making her third Olympic appearance, and already has two medals: gold from Beijing and bronze from London. “The Trampoline Princess,” as He is known, battled injuries in recent years and hasn’t won any individual world championship medals since London.
Challengers from Belarus
The strongest challengers to the Chinese athletes may be Uladzislau Hancharou and Tatsiana Piatrenia from Belarus. 20-year-old Hancharou won silver at the 2015 World Championships, and then claimed gold at the 2016 Rio Test Event, a pre-Olympic competition held in the same arena where the Olympians will compete. The young athlete is modest about his goals for Rio. He told the International Gymnastics Federation that he’ll be going for silver in Rio. “I want to go gradually,” he said. “Silver in Rio, and then after that, maybe gold."
Tatsiana Piatrenia has three Olympic experiences under her belt, and improved her ninth-place finish in Beijing by finishing fifth in London. The 34-year-old is getting better with age: she won bronze at the 2015 World Championships and again at the 2016 Rio Test Event.
The U.S. has never medaled in Olympic trampoline
Since the sport of trampoline was introduced to the Games in 2000, an American athlete has never made the Olympic podium. The two U.S. athletes representing the U.S. in Rio aren’t favored to change that, so qualifying for the eight-person final would be reason to celebrate for both. Logan Dooley, who served as the Olympic alternate (a non-competing athlete) at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will finally get this chance to soar in an Olympic arena. Nicole Ahsinger was a 2014 Youth Olympian and finished 33rd at the 2015 World Championships, her first Worlds.
The crashes and falls
Trampoline is perhaps the most unpredictable sport in the Olympics—just one bad bounce can send a world champion to the bottom of the rankings. The trampoline rules do not allow an athlete who crashes during his routine, or even just brushes the safety mat on the side of the trampoline, to restart, so that athlete is judged on only the skills they completed before the error.