York’s Karen Cockburn earns silver on the Olympic trampoline

York University student Karen Cockburn triumphed in her hunt for an Olympic medal on Friday. The 22-year-old student, who is also the current world champion, performed a stunning routine in the Olympic trampoline competition to win a silver medal at the Athens Games. A second-year economics student at York, Cockburn trains at the SkyRiders club in Richmond Hill with national team coach David Ross.

Left: Cockburn performing at the 2004 Olympic trampoline finals

In her routine, Cockburn performed ten different combinations with a combined degree of difficulty of 14.6 out of a possible 15 points. Her routine was the most challenging of all the competitors because many of the skills she executed are currently performed only in the men’s competition. 

With steely determination, she delivered a nearly flawless performance. Bouncing to heights verging on 25 feet, she managed to stay within the trampoline’s centre box target area (about the size of a twin bed), a key component to achieving a high score. She finished with a final score of 39.20.

Unfortunately for Cockburn, 31-year-old Anna Dogonadze of Germany managed to squeak by with a flawless performance to put up a score of 39.60 and win gold. Even though Dogonadze’s routine was rated at a lower level of difficulty, the veteran athlete perfected a pinpoint landing throughout each of her routines, displaying a minimal amount of travelling (moving side to side on the trampoline surface).

Right: Olympic trampoline silver medallist Karen Cockburn

“I definitely knew I had good results last year, so I knew I had a good chance at first place here,” Cockburn said following the event. “I knew that, with a 15.0 difficulty total, it would be good. But today, feeling shaky and nervous, I knew if I went for that routine, I wouldn’t have had as good a result as I did. So I went for a 14.6, knowing it would be the highest in the final and hoping it would be enough. But again, I was still a little shaky.”

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden expressed jubilation over Cockburn’s Olympic silver medal accomplishment. “We are all incredibly proud of Karen here at York,” said Marsden. “Karen’s silver medal triumph is definitely a joyous occasion for all Canadians and is certainly cause for celebration.”

Left: Cockburn’s parents Patricia (left) and Colin prepare to watch their daughter’s Olympic performance

Her parents Colin and Patricia Cockburn, who live in North York, were glued to their TV set, surrounded by local and national media, in anticipation of their daughter’s walk to the podium. “We are simply elated,” said her mother. “We had high hopes for our daughter at Athens. This is an extremely emotional and happy moment for us.

“My heart is jumping out of my throat until she finishes.”

Her father added, “Karen works very, very hard at this sport. It is unbelievable.”

Both parents credited Cockburn’s coach David Ross and Karen’s dedication to the sport for their daughter’s Olympic success. Cockburn was the bronze medallist at the Sydney Olympic Games four years ago when the sport made its debut. Cockburn won world championships last year in Hanover, Germany.

During the competition in Athens, she prevailed over Russian Irina Karavaeva, the defending gold medallist, who crashed out during the qualifying round.

Right: The Athens Olympic medal

Cockburn began trampoline in 1992 at the age of 11. A competitive gymnast and diver, she used the trampoline as a tool to improve her aerial sense.

She will be returning to York in September resume her studies. 

See the Aug. 12 issue of YFile for more coverage of Karen Cockburn’s Olympic journey.