At first glance, Ben Wilden may not be what you expect from a national champion. Witty, down-to-earth, and personable, his complete lack of arrogance and nonexistent sense of entitlement is definitely not what one might expect from an Australian legend. He has won countless competitions and wowed world-class judges with his intricate routines, but don’t think that he has let all of the fame go to his head. Ben’s story is one of hard work, dedication, and staying grounded along the way.
Ben’s Olympic journey started on a trampoline in his parents’ backyard in Adelaide. He has said that his father was very involved in his trampoline interests and taught him safety techniques in addition to introducing new tricks—a crucial combination of skills for his future as an Olympic athlete. Ben’s passion for trampoline sports took off. After only one week in his trampoline clubs beginner class, Ben was skilled enough for the intermediate group. Soon after, he was accepted into the advanced class. The classes fuelled his passion for trampoline sports, and he began entering competitions by the time he was nine years old. Excelling in interclub competitions, Ben soon soared to novice championships and beyond. After winning Australian state and national championships, he had secured his position as one of the most promising young athletes of any sport in Australia.
His victories were not going unnoticed. As a result of his phenomenal routines, Ben was invited to join the Senior National Squad in 2002. His acceptance into the team fuelled him to work harder, be better, and improve more. He entered more trampoline competitions and continued to set personal goals for himself. 2007 was an incredibly busy year for him as he competed in seven international competitions, collecting medals along the way. His fame grew when he won the gold medal at the World Cup for men’s synchronized trampolining that same year. By 2008, Ben blew the judges away with an incredible trampoline routine. His dreams were realized when his score was high enough to qualify him for the Beijing Olympics—an incredibly exciting achievement!
Although the qualification was an incredible honor, it was also outrageously expensive. At the time, Ben was working at a bar in Adelaide. To not go to the Olympic Games was not an option; he simply had to work harder and use his ingenuity to achieve his dreams. Ben struck a deal with his boss and created a cocktail he named “The Beijing Dream.” “I really pushed that drink,” he said. “If someone would ask what I would recommend, I would make it for them. I charged $5.00 for it and got 100% of the profits!” Through his hard work and dedication, Ben earned the funds that he needed to compete among other champions from all over the globe.
His experience on the day of the Olympic competition was absolutely heart-wrenching. He barely missed the cut for the finals. “I was very excited on the day of the competition,” he said. “I had a sore knee, but I pushed through. By the time it was time for me to compete, it was a different experience. I heard the roar of the crowd in reaction to the Chinese competitor before me, and I began to feel so nervous. Suddenly, the lights got brighter, the crowd got louder, and my legs turned to jelly.” After a disappointing first routine, Ben was grittily determined to excel in his second performance. “I had nothing to lose after the first,” he said. “I was going to do the best routine I’ve ever done or fall off trying!” His determined mindset paid off; Ben performed an unblemished routine and completed his Olympic experience by setting a personal best record. “I learned a lot from that experience,” he said. “It taught me a lot about training. If your training is correct, you can’t go wrong.” Since the Olympic competition, Ben has continued his reign as the top male trampolinist in Australia.
Although his natural talent on the trampoline is unstoppable, Ben has faced some difficulties along the way. In 2000, he began experiencing back issues. He was diagnosed with Sherman’s disease (also known as Scheuermann’s Disease) when it was discovered that his bones were too soft at the core. He could not train on the trampoline and his six month recovery was also marked by endless physiotherapy appointments and chiropractor appointments three to five days a week. His condition began to take a toll on his drive. “I became depressed and down,” he said. “I thought about quitting. At 15, I was too young to understand the mental effects of a sports injury.” Fortunately, Ben’s mental determination began to heal with his body, and he pushed through to pursue his dreams.
There are sacrifices that must be made whenever you are an Olympic athlete. “I had to give up a lot of things,” Ben said. “Because my schedule was so hectic, I had to give up my career as a jeweller. I couldn’t go to parties on the weekends with friends. Any holidays or breaks that I had were used for competitions. ” However, he said that his friends, family, and romantic partners were very understanding of his dreams. Excelling in trampoline sports has become even more important to him after his father passed away in 2009. “I do the sport as a tribute to my dad now,” he said. “It gives the sport extra meaning.”
It may be surprising that becoming a professional athlete was not something that Ben ever intended to do. “It was not a conscious decision, but that was the path that happened,” he said. “I had little goals that led to big goals. When you set those goals, you realize that you’re not far off from the big ones.”
Today, Ben is using his trampoline skills in a new and exciting way. He was recently accepted as a member of Cirque Du Soleil and is moving to Los Angeles, where he will continue to stun and awe audiences from all over the world. He is still passionate about trampolines, and offers inspirational advice to other budding champions. “You have to dream big, and don’t be afraid of your dreams,” he said. “If you want to achieve something, you have to go get it and really make it happen. Don’t listen to those who tell you cant.”