When you invest in the biggest trip of your life to go to the Olympics, you pray it will all be worth it.
So, when you arrive at the airport and see dozens of Team Canada athletes waiting to board your flight– you get a little excited.
Or, so excited you start sweating profusely.
Let’s be honest. I was freaking out.
As I approached my gate, I couldn’t believe it. Standing in front of the counter was Canada’s flag bearer, Rosie MacLennan, chatting with teammate Jason Burnett and their coach, all of whom I had interviewed for CBC Sports in 2008. Since then, she and Burnett had each won an Olympic medal – silver for Burnett in 2008, and gold for MacLennan in 2012.
As I arrived and set my bag down, frantically reaching for my camera, Air Canada launched into a special presentation at the entrance of the boarding gate. MacLennan hoisted up a Canadian flag and they announced that it was the official Team Canada flight. Passengers in the waiting area cheered and staff began passing out mini Canadian flags.
This was amazing.
I grabbed my bag and headed to the back of the line to board, desperately trying to hide my giddiness.
That’s when I ended up standing right beside Burnett himself.
I desperately tried to figure out how not to sound crazy. I struck up conversation, saying that we’d met a few years earlier and congratulated him on all of his success.
As we waited in line, we chatted for a bit about the Games.
Worried about safety?
With so many stories about safety and security, I asked him if it had been a concern for him leading up to the Games.
“Not at all,” he said. “They have so much security down there, I think it will be fine.”
“This always happens before a Games,” he continued. “The media hype things up, and it’s never as bad as they say. The media always need a story, you know? And then by the time the Games start, that coverage dies down.”
“Darn media,” I said, jokingly.
Knowing it was a long shot, I then asked him if he remembered jumping around on the trampoline with me in 2008 when I interviewed him. He had sprung himself to the rafters and, clearly, an Olympic medallist in the making, hung from the ceiling of this massive dome for what seemed like forever.
It was definitely a long shot. He had zero recollection.
“I remember thinking it matched a description of you on your website, where it said you called yourself a daredevil,” I said.
“That’s good branding. I’m glad I’m being consistent,” he joked.
The 2016 Olympics mark Burnett’s third time in Rio. The first time was at the Pan Am Games in 2007.
He is especially excited about competing in Rio this time, he said, given the huge amount of support coming with him.
“This year, I’ve got my girlfriend, my parents and a whole bunch of family coming down. we rented a beach house together and Rosie’s family did the same,” he said. “It’s going to be a big party.”
As we neared the area where they checked our tickets and passports, I told him I was a bit nervous as, when we landed, I’d be trying to find a driver who didn’t speak any English.
“Well, if you don’t, you’re arriving with Team Canada, so I think you’ll be alright,” he said.
What a start.
Burnett competes in trampoline on Aug. 13, with MacLennan, defending Olympic champion, going for gold Aug. 12.