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August 24, 2008
CBC Sports

Cockburn a class act for flag-bearer

Trampolinist will carry Canada's banner into closing ceremony

For someone who bounces up and down so much, Karen Cockburn has never been the outgoing type.

But Sunday night in Beijing (6 a.m. ET on CBC), the Toronto native will be front and centre on the world stage, carrying Canada's flag into the closing ceremony of an Olympics she helped turn into a solid success for her home country.

It marks the end of a journey that began 16 years ago when she was 11 and climbed up on a trampoline for the first time in a workshop run by her future coach Dave Ross.

That journey has continued through three Olympics, 10 Canadian national championships, a world title and a couple of bad knee injuries.

Along the way, the resident of Stouffville, Ont., has won a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a silver in Athens four years ago and a silver this year. Through it all she has never been anything but the best of representatives for her country and for a relatively young sport the public rarely sees.

"I was so overwhelmed and shocked," Cockburn told the CBC's Scott Russell on Sunday morning in Beijing after being officially introduced as the closing ceremony flag-bearer. "I don't think the smile has left my face."

Cockburn, 27, is married to fellow trampoline athlete Mathieu Turgeon and 10 months away from hyper-extending a knee while training for the world championships.

"She was at the height of her game when she injured he knee," Turgeon told the CBC prior to Beijing. "She was very worried if she was even going to be able to practise the sport again, let alone compete at the world championships. It was devastating for her."

But it didn't stop her.

Cockburn rehabilitated, regrouped and got to the worlds where she finished fifth in the preliminaries, guaranteeing not only her place at the Beijing Olympics but also that of teammate Rosannagh MacLennan. Only then did Cockburn have knee surgery, a procedure that kept her off the tramp for two months, until February.

It all led to Aug. 18 in Beijing, where she took the silver medal with a score of 37.00, a mere .80 behind gold medallist He Wenna of China.

That performance made Cockburn the fifth Canadian to win a medal in three-straight Olympics, joining Phil Edwards in track and field (1928, 1932 and 1936), rowing coxswain Leslie Thompson-Willie (1992, 1996, 2000), kayaker Caroline Brunet (1996, 2000, 2004) and diver Emilie Heymans (2000, 2004, 2008).

But don't expect her to flaunt it. It's not in this athlete's makeup.

"I will have a huge smile as I walk into the closing ceremonies tonight," she said.

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