Pragmatic Rosie MacLennan takes a gamble by playing it safe in trampoline final

Pragmatic Rosie MacLennan takes a gamble by playing it safe in trampoline final

Rosie MacLennan at the 2016 Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Defending Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan opted for her easier routine during women’s trampoline finals on Friday, a rare moment of caution in a sport that thrives on daring.

“I was a lot more confident in it,” MacLennan said. “The other one was a little shakier. I knew it would be a bit of a gamble and the Olympics isn’t a time to gamble.”

Considering what MacLennan has been through over the last year as she recovered from a pair of concussions that threatened her career, hard to blame her. Yet she never lost faith, and it paid off with a second gold medal to bookend the one she captured in London.

Soaring effortlessly and precisely through the air inside the Rio Olympic Arena, MacLennan posted a score of 56.465 to become the first Canadian athlete to win gold medals in consecutive summer games. Bryony Page of Great Britain was second, followed by Li Dan of China.

Page admitted she was “shellshocked” and could barely stand after putting together the best set of her life, the 25-year-old’s legs buckling when her score posted.

MacLennan’s response was more measured. She’s been here before, even if she wasn’t sure she would be back after sustaining two concussions in the span of a month in 2015. The first one came during a training mishap, the other when her head was smacked by a car door.

Her recovery was slow. Though she managed to qualify for Rio by finishing fourth at the world championships last November, she noticed an odd and troubling symptom when she ramped up her training program early this year: her eyes would start shaking in the middle of her routine.

“If you can’t spot the trampoline you don’t know where you are and I was afraid of getting lost in skills,” MacLennan said. “That fear and that uncertainty took a long time to get back.”

It wasn’t until March that MacLennan felt her confidence return. Working methodically so she wouldn’t get too far ahead of herself, MacLennan felt the trust in her talent return.

“In some ways it was really tough but it was also a reminder of how much I really did love the sport,” she said. “If I didn’t I would have given up.”

Instead she pressed on in an event that requires gymnasts to leap two stories in the air 20-25 times over the course of a minute, getting scored on a combination of “air time” and their series of 10 connected flips and twists. MacLennan placed third in qualifying.

Another shot at gold on the line, she could have taken the riskier route and hoped the difficulty would offset any mistakes in execution. Pragmatism won out, a decision that ended with her atop the medal stand once again.

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