Daughter motivates Karen Cockburn's comeback for Pan American Games
TORONTO — Karen Cockburn's daughter may not remember watching her mom fly high above the trampoline at the Pan American Games, but at least there will be photographic proof of it.
One of the reasons Cockburn scrambled to compete at the Pan Ams in Toronto is so she can one day point to a photo of herself and her daughter Emilie and say "you were there."
"I have my daughter and I want to have her see me compete," Cockburn says. "She's going to be two in September so she doesn't really understand but she's going to be at the event.
"She motivates me and I want to prove to her that you don't give up. Nothing can stop you."
Not even a shattered ankle suffered less than eight months ago while training at the world championships in Daytona, Fla.
The three-time Olympic medallist dropped from four metres in the air onto the hard frame surrounding the trampoline and broke her ankle.
Cockburn had a steel plate and eight screws surgically implanted in the joint. The 34-year-old from Toronto was in a cast until February and didn't start jumping until March.
"At the time of the injury she didn't expect she would be able to come back," her coach David Ross said. "It was so much work to be able to come back from the pregnancy, do all that work and not get to compete was pretty devastating for her.
"She decided to come back and really put in a lot of hard work."
Trampoline's preliminary rounds begin Saturday at Toronto Coliseum followed by Sunday's finals.
Cockburn is joined on the Canadian team by reigning Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan of King City, Ont., former Olympic silver medallist Jason Burnett of Nobleton, Ont., and Keegan Soehn of Red Deer, Alta.
Cockburn recited the athletes' oath at the opening ceremonies for the Pan Am Games.
A 19-year-old Cockburn won bronze in 2000 when trampoline made its Olympic debut in Sydney, Australia. She won silver medals at the next two Summer Games and was named Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies in Beijing in 2008.
Cockburn won Pan Am gold in 2007, but a bout of food poisoning kept her out of the final in 2011. She finished fourth in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was actually bumped from bronze-medal position when MacLennan nailed gold with her routine.
Cockburn has been a friend and mentor to MacLennan for years, but their roles flipped heading into these Pan Am Games.
Cockburn's success allowed MacLennan to develop without the pressure of expectations. Now MacLennan is in the spotlight and Cockburn is glad to let her have it.
With just one triple in her routine instead of two, Cockburn hasn't had enough time to bring her routine back to a high degree of difficulty. The veteran must rely on height and execution to gain the points needed to get her on the podium.
"I think if it was only on me, it would be hard because you want to win gold for Canada, especially on home soil," Cockburn said.
"But because my teammate is so strong, it kind of takes a bit of the pressure off in that sense. There's two of us so the chance for gold is much better. Ideally both of us on the podium would be our goal here because we're one of the stronger countries.
"I wish I had a bit more time, but I feel good and my routines are good. I'm feeling confident."
Cockburn is married to Mathieu Turgeon, who won men's trampoline bronze in Sydney. Emilie was born in September, 2013.
With both her ankle and her execution improving, Cockburn isn't ruling out a fifth Olympic Games next summer in Rio de Janeiro.
Canada can earn two berths in Olympic women's trampoline in Rio with two top-eight at November's world championship in Odense, Denmark.
"Every time I'm part of a team here or at an Olympic Games, it's such a unique experience," Cockburn said. "It would be awesome to experience that again, to have another shot at a medal."
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press