Kat Driscoll was once described as ‘Britain’s least-known world number one’ though the challenge, as she attempted to convert that ranking into Olympic trampolining gold today, was simply to avoid looking up at her family. She’d located them in the crowd but, as she later admitted, looking at them in mid-flight would have been risky.
“Once you’ve spotted them you can’t start looking up there,” said Driscoll, who usually performs in front of 200 people, not 10,000. She had attempted before the women’s trampoline tournament to douse expectations raised by her elevation to No 1 last year. But the 26-year-old was unable even to attain her more achievable target of reaching this afternoon’s final, with her ninth position in the semi-final leaving her one place outside of the cut, in a competition won by Canada’s Rosannagh Maclennan. “No-one wants to finish ninth do they?” she said. “I did the best routines I could do but they just weren’t good enough today.”
There were consolations for Driscoll – including her second best score of the year, 100.98 - the calculation being the total of an open ‘difficulty’ score and a mark out of ten ‘execution’ score. The athletes are also scored on how long they spend in the air, through the use of a laser sensor, fastened to the bottom of the trampoline, which measures how long the time period is between contacts with the trampoline bed. Driscoll’s 16.73 second time of flight in her first routine was a personal best.
But that weaker initial routine left her 12 out of the 16 semi-final competitors and with a substantial amount of work to do to make the final, which Canada and China dominated, as expected. Maclennan, who edged out China’s Shanshan Huang, has family pedigree. Her gymnast grandfather qualified for the 1940 Olympics games which were scheduled for Japan but cancelled due to World War II took gold.
There had been talk of Chinese trampolining subterfuge before these Olympics, in which the 23-year-old Ding Dong secured the men's Olympic title on Friday, crisply flipping and twisting his way to gold with a dizzying series of flips and twists on Friday. The Chinese have appeared at few pre-Olympics events, giving rise to the suspicion that there are involved in a campaign of secrecy, much like the Japanese were, before the women’s hockey tournament. “To be fair, it’s the same four girls who come to all events,” Driscoll said. “Most people don’t change what they are doing now so you know what to expect from most people.”
Drsicoll’s appearance provided the chance to establish if a trampolinist sees anything in Row Z when she is in full flight and upside down. “When you’re jumping, you’re in your zone and your own little bubble,” she explained. “Once you start jumping you’ve no idea where you are and what you’re doing.”
She was generally taking the positives away. “I have achieved things. It was the best Olympic finish for a Brit.,” she said. “I’ve got to do things that some people can only dream of and I can’t be too disappointed with what I’ve done, because I stood up and delivered in front of all those thousands of people shouting and screaming in front of me.”