Pi­o­neer Cock­burn says time to bounce

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - LORI EWING THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Karen Cock­burn was soar­ing and spin­ning high above tram­po­lines in the sport’s lean years when money for train­ing and travel came out of her own pocket.

The 36-year-old had a dream of com­pet­ing in the Olympics be­fore tram­po­line was even added to the Games pro­gram.

Cock­burn took a chance — fin­gers crossed — when she chose tram­po­line over div­ing. She went on to be­come one of the world’s most dec­o­rated Olympic tram­po­line ath­letes and paved a path for a young Rosie McLen­nan to fol­low en route to be­com­ing a two-time Olympic gold medal­list.

Cock­burn’s ca­reer was cel­e­brated dur­ing the na­tional cham­pi­onships on Sun­day in Oshawa as she of­fi­cially an­nounced her re­tire­ment. She talked about her pride in be­ing the cor­ner­stone of Canada’s team.

“I al­ways had this dream of go­ing to the Olympics, and I re­mem­ber my div­ing coach said ‘Well that’s not an Olympic sport, you shouldn’t quit div­ing to do that,’ ” said Cock­burn, a Toronto na­tive. “My par­ents told me to choose one, and I was like ‘Well that’s what I’m pas­sion­ate about. Maybe it will get into the Olympics one day.’ “I just had this hope that it would.” The sport made its Olympic de­but in 2000 in Syd­ney, where Cock­burn earned bronze, as did her hus­band Mathieu Tur­geon. The mid­dle name of their three-year-old daugh­ter, Em­i­lie, is Syd­ney. She went on to cap­ture sil­ver at both the 2004 and ’08 Olympics, was fourth in 2012 in Lon­don, and added eight world cham­pi­onship medals, 52 World Cup medals, and 14 se­nior na­tional ti­tles.

“To be the first woman to go to the Olympics was pretty spe­cial,” she said. “Hav­ing the spot­light shine on tram­po­line and be­ing able to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion like Rosie, who is eight years younger than me. . . I’ve known her since she was seven or eight years old, so it’s a pretty spe­cial re­la­tion­ship. So to see her do so well has been amaz­ing and now she’s in­spir­ing peo­ple too.

“That was kind of my dream to see all that hap­pen.”

McLen­nan cap­tured back-to-back gold at the 2012 and ’16 Olympics.

“Karen put tram­po­line on the map for Canada and paved the way for our suc­cess,” McLen­nan said. “For me per­son­ally, she changed my dream of be­ing an Olympian into a re­al­ity.”

Cock­burn lists among her ca­reer high­lights com­pet­ing in the Pan Am Games in Toronto, car­ry­ing the flag in the clos­ing cer­e­monies at the Bei­jing Games and win­ning her first world ti­tle in 2003.

“I re­mem­ber that was a huge goal of mine, and my coach (Dave Ross) to coach a world cham­pion,” she said. “I think that’s the only com­pe­ti­tion we both were cry­ing af­ter hav­ing a re­sult.”

Cock­burn was com­ing back from hav­ing her daugh­ter when she shat­tered her an­kle in 2014. The in­jury re­quired surgery to in­sert a metal plate and eight screws.

“When I shat­tered my an­kle I was try­ing to take care of my daugh­ter who, she was just one at the time, I’m on crutches and try­ing to make it back in time for the Pan Am Games,” she said. “So I think that’s some­thing that you can learn a lot from and it helps you later on in your life, to per­se­vere through things.

“In those mo­ments, you learn what you’re ca­pa­ble of and you can al­ways go on.”

Cock­burn didn’t com­pete in the Rio Olympics af­ter Canada qual­i­fied just one spot. She could have com­peted another sea­son but couldn’t com­mit to another four-year Olympic cy­cle and didn’t want to take away the fund­ing from an up-and-com­ing ath­lete.

She plans to stay in­volved in sports. She coaches tram­po­line and will con­duct a camp in Whistler, B.C., next month for young tram­po­line ath­letes. The cou­ple has a tram­po­line in the back­yard of their Stouf­fville home.

“My daugh­ter is al­ways like ‘Jump with me, jump with me,’ ” she laughed.

She spends her free time play­ing in a coed base­ball league or pad­dle­board­ing with her daugh­ter. She’s work­ing on a cou­ple of projects, one on growth and de­vel­op­ment for her sport, and the other to pro­mote health and fit­ness for fam­i­lies.

RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

Karen Cock­burn flipped her way to the bronze medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games, where the Stouf­fville res­i­dent had the thrill of com­pet­ing on home soil.

A trail­blaz­ing tram­polin­ist, Karen Cock­burn won a world cham­pi­onship and earned three Olympic medals.

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