From Olympic Medallist to Social Media Guru, Jason Burnett Sees Opportunity at Every Turn
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario – “A Pessimist Sees the Difficulty in Every Opportunity; an Optimist Sees the Opportunity in Every Difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
Growing up Jason Burnett’s parents had one golden rule: go to school and do one extracurricular activity. He started in gymnastics and by the age of 8, he fell in love with trampoline. After a few years of jumping at Airborne Trampoline, Jason quickly outgrew the facility – literally. He was jumping so high that he could hang from the roof, which limited the difficulty of his tricks and routines. Looking for more opportunities, Jason moved to Skyriders Trampoline Place at the age of 12, finding not only his trampoline home for the next 20+ years, but also his coach, Dave Ross.
Two short years later, Jason made his first National Team and was carded and competing internationally by the age of 16. After years of hard work and dedication, Jason started medalling at international meets and made his Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
And what a debut it was! Jason finished second in men’s trampoline, making him an Olympic Silver Medallist.
Dedicated to his sport, Jason continued to train hard in order to remain among the best in the world and compete at two more Olympic Games. At the London 2012 Games, he made the finals but crashed out during his routine He used the outcome as a learning opportunity to grow as an athlete and set his sights on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Jason suffered two ACL tears in the lead up to Rio, and although his injury rehabilitation got him back to competitive form and he was able to represent Canada at the Games, he was unable to recreate his previous successes. But Jason didn’t want to leave sport on a negative note. He saw this as a bigger opportunity.
Using his downtime during injury rehabilitation, Jason began to explore opportunities beyond trampoline and what a career outside of sport might look like. Jason enrolled in George Brown College’s Sport and Event Marketing Program, which included a work placement. Why not align his placement with his passion for sport? He instantly thought of Canadian Sport Institute Ontario as the perfect organization to balance the two.
Throughout Jason’s athletic career, he has received sport science and sport medicine support from CSIO, including strength and conditioning, biomechanics and performance analysis, physiotherapy, and mental performance services. Leading into the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, Jason worked closely with a CSIO Strength and Conditioning Coach to increase his power through weight training. Jason also received years of biomechanical feedback from CSIO staff at training and competitions to improve technique and performance, as well as access to nutrition and mental performance services at CSIO.
As a world-class sport institute, CSIO and its expert staff provided Jason with injury rehabilitation services during his recovery, including from the two ACL tears. This involved access to CSIO’s physiotherapists and state-of-the-art equipment, including the Hydroworx hydrotherapy pool with an underwater treadmill and the anti-gravity treadmill.
Jason accessed Game Plan services through CSIO while completing his schooling at George Brown. Game Plan is Canada’s total athlete wellness program that strives to support national team athletes to live better and more holistic lives. He worked closely with CSIO Game Plan Adviser and mental performance consultant, Dr. Rolf Wagschal, to help define his goals after sport and building confidence to bring forward to the working world.
For CSIO, this work placement opportunity was also a great fit – with the cherry on top being able to provide one of its supported high performance athletes with real world office experience. In the Summer of 2017, Jason completed a Communications and Marketing internship with CSIO, with a focus on social media. Getting a first taste of what office life is like, the placement provided Jason with the additional flexibility to receive treatment and train at the facility. A positive experience, Jason saw a bigger opportunity to leverage his experience as an athlete with CSIO’s social media strategy, and a year later, joined the CSIO team in a contractor position as a Social Media Coordinator.
Through his role, Jason actively engages with a core group of six CSIO supported sports (Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Swimming, Diving, Softball, and Beach Volleyball) to showcase the work that goes into an athlete’s journey to the podium through a series of photo and video posts. Using his perspective as an Olympic athlete himself, Jason has been able to build a comfortable repour with athletes, coaches, and CSIO practitioners to capture unique training content and provide a behind the scenes look into life as a high performance athlete.
Prior to leaving for the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, Jason sat down to answer some questions about representing Canada at the Games and working for CSIO.
Don’t forget to check out our new video feature Take 5 – where we asked Jason five rapid fire questions! https://youtu.be/mi4ntjHRxco
This being your third Pan Am Games, what does it mean to you to be able to compete at Lima 2019?
I am very excited to represent Canada again – it’s always an honour to do so and in a sport I love. I am also looking forward to the travel component and getting to go down to Peru to compete and see the country and culture there. It is a very exciting team of athletes that we are sending – I am on the older end of the spectrum, and there are a lot of super talented, younger athletes who will have their first multi-sport Games experience. This experience will help prepare them for the 2020 Olympic Games and the qualification process for those Games. I am looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge and experience in a mentor role to my teammates.
What do you hope to learn or experience at these Pan Am Games?
I hope to continue to grow as a person and learn to accept that the next generation is going to take the spotlight. That can be a hard thing for an athlete to accept. As an athlete, it can be difficult to be humble or second best, at these Games there’s going to be someone younger, stronger, and potentially more talented than me, whether teammate or competitor from another country— that’s just the nature of sport. I’ve started to spend time thinking about that and how it feels or is going to feel and to make peace with it. I am excited to see the young athletes compete well and win competitions. Having athletes at different points in their career at the Games is a good thing; it allows for growth and new experiences for everyone— whether as a veteran athlete acting as a mentor or for the next generation to get the Games experience, they need to perform well.
What was it like to compete at home at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games compared to competing in a different country?
It was amazing to have Pan Ams here in Toronto. This is home for me. The familiarity of having the Athlete Village right downtown and knowing my way around was so easy. It was nice to be able to give directions to people and other athletes who weren’t from here, for once! It was incredibly different from any major competition I had been too before. It was amazing to have friends and family be able to watch, support, and enjoy the Games. Most of my bigger meets happen in other parts of the world that are inaccessible to them, so it was nice to have my support system here for those Games.
What drives you to continue to compete?
My love for the sport, that’s really what drives me. I am thinking about retirement, but I can’t imagine life without jumping on a trampoline. I would love to jump forever, but injuries and age will catch up to me at some point. I just love what I do, and I never choose to stop.
What is your favourite moment competing as an athlete?
I have two! My Olympic silver medal in 2008 is the obvious choice, but leading up to those Games, in 2007, I broke a world record for most difficult routine completed in competition. It was a 20-year record held by a Russian athlete, as Russia has typically been seen as the strongest or one of the strongest teams for a long time. It was a very proud moment for me and my coach, Dave Ross. I love doing tricks and so does Dave. He really pushed me and the level of difficulty of my tricks to stand out, and it paid off. That competition was a special moment for me, and for him.
Having been a CSIO supported athlete throughout your career, to now be on the other side, what does it mean to work for CSIO?
It’s been an amazing experience. To see the rest of the organization, the staff, respect you beyond your athleticism and see value in you outside of sport is an incredible thing. Moving from the gym to the office is uncomfortable as an athlete, but CSIO has provided me a wonderful opportunity and been very flexible with my training and competition schedule. In my role, I have the opportunity to share athlete insight to help promote CSIO and its world-class facility, which has been a great learning experience for me. It’s good to try new things, to help you make more informed decisions in the future. My experience working at CSIO has been very positive.