York’s Olympian gives Canada a reason to cheer

Newspapers and broadcasters across Canada joyously reported the silver-medal win by York student Karen Cockburn in the gymnastic trampoline event at the Athens Olympics. The second-year economics students was interviewed widely, as were her parents, Colin and Patricia Cockburn, in their North York home, where Colin wore a York sweatshirt. Samples of the coverage:

  • Toronto trampolinist Karen Cockburn couldn’t stop shaking yesterday, even when she was in the air, said the Toronto Star Aug. 21. And this is an athlete with a reputation for staying cool under pressure. But it’s hard to soar when your legs are hoisting the weight of a nation’s expectations, as the 22-year-old York University student did at the cavernous Olympic Gymnastics Hall. Despite the furor back home over a lack of medals, Cockburn really was the first Canadian athlete with the pedigree of a sure-fire medal contender – as reigning world champion and World Cup leader – to compete at these Olympics. “It was tough,” said Cockburn. “I haven’t felt that shaky jumping. I was physically shaking in the air and that’s not how I like to feel during a routine. I’m impressed that I did as well as I did and I handled it the way that I did.”
  • Nervous excitement gave way to pride in the Cockburn household, reported the North York Mirror Aug. 22. Cockburn’s parents, Colin and Patricia, watched from their North York basement, cheering and exchanging a kiss when she completed her challenging routine. “We’re very excited here,” said Cockburn’s mother. “We’re not jumping up and down, but we’re very excited.” Colin said that he was especially proud of her for the effort she put into her training. The 10 skills she performed were the most challenging of any of the competitors in the finals.
  • Few have overachieved for Canada thus far, but Karen Cockburn, medal hope, came through with the medal Canada was counting on, said the National Post Aug. 21. “When you’re in a place where you’re expected to win a medal, because you have the results, you feel the pressure of course,” she said. “And then you put more on yourself. So I was really nervous today.”
  • Karen, a York University student who lives at home, keeps her bronze medal in a drawer in her bedroom, said the Toronto Sun Aug. 21. That drawer – “a safe spot,” her mom said – will now have a silver lining.

Cockburn was also featured extensively in radio and television coverage following the event, including the flagship network news shows, CBC’s “The National” and “CTV News”.

Lost in translation

Amila Buturovic, York humanities professor in the Faculty of Arts, was quoted in an Associated Press story published around the world, commenting on a new translation of The Qur’an into English. The Qur’an is cryptic, often requiring the addition of parenthetical words that are not in the literal Arabic to explain the meaning. The meaning of words can also differ between classical and modern Arabic and that’s only the beginning of the difficulties, said Buturovic. “[The Qur’an] is so rich, so complex, that even for Arabists and literary critics it is a phenomenal challenge.” She said that fact makes any translation “highly problematic.” Among newspapers the story appeared in were the Miami Herald, the Washington Times and the Times of India.

Student success story

Glendon student Vishali Malhotra has won a $50,000 scholarship to study conductive education this fall in England, reported the Scarborough Mirror Aug. 20. She is one of only two Canadians to win the award this year. The award is offered through the Ontario March of Dimes and Transamerica Life. “I was very excited when I found out,” she said.

Order in the court

Peter Hogg, York University Osgoode Hall Law School professor, constitutional law expert and former dean of Osgoode, was mentioned in a CP Wire news item Aug. 22. Hogg is rumoured to be one of the contenders who will sit on the Supreme Court.

Military intelligence?

Martin Shadwick, defence analyst and research associate with York’s Centre for International & Security Studies was quoted in The Toronto Sun Aug. 22, and in the National Post, Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen Aug. 21, on the Liberal government’s plan to create a new brigade of 5,000 peacekeeping soldiers. Military observers have estimated the cost to be $2.5 billion with up to $500 million per year to maintain. Shadwick was quoted as saying that “the government should hold full public consultations before acting. To do it quietly in the night while you’re just trying to scrounge money for the 5,000 peacekeepers, I’m not totally sure that’s a candid approach to take with the public.”

Take the money and run

Thomas Klassen, a York University political science professor in the Faculty of Arts, was quoted in the Toronto Star Aug. 21 in a story about the Ontario government’s plans to scrap mandatory retirement. “If I told you ‘You’re black, so you can’t work here anymore,’ you’d say, “You can’t do that,'” noted Klassen. “But as it stands now, if I say ‘You can’t work here because you’re 65,’ it’s perfectly legal.” There are suspicions, particularly from the labour movement, that ending mandatory retirement is the thin edge of a wedge that will eventually lead to governments delaying, from age 65 to 67 or older, the point at which public pensions and drug benefits will be paid out. “It’s a realistic fear but it is totally unrelated to mandatory retirement,” said Klassen.

On air

  • Alina Pekarsky, project director with the Russia-Canada Corporate Governance Program in York’s Schulich School of Business, appeared on “The National” (CBC-TV) Aug. 20 speaking about the incident involving Candian owners of a hotel in Moscow who said they were evicted by “goons” and have asked for Ottawa’s help.