OSHAWA, ON (July 16, 2017) – Karen Cockburn, Canada’s most decorated gymnast, announced her retirement today at the 2017 Canadian Championships in Trampoline Gymnastics in front of her family, friends, and fellow competitors.
“For as long as I can remember I’ve been wearing red and white and proudly wearing the maple leaf. It has been a great honour to represent my country for the past 25 years and it’s hard to believe that my role as an elite athlete has come to a close,” said Cockburn. “I’m excited for a new chapter in my life and I am currently working on a few projects involving growth and development of the sport and increasing physical activity for children and families. I will continue coaching and will always be connected in some way to the sport I love.”
With three Olympic medals to her credit – bronze (Sydney 2000), silver (Athens 2004), silver (Beijing 2008), and a fourth-place finish from the London 2012 Olympics, Karen leaves behind an incredible legacy of both domestic and international success.
Cockburn started competing at the age of 13 and represented Canada for over 25 years. She won the first of her eight World Championship medals in 2003, when she stood on top of the podium in individual trampoline. She stood on the top of the podium once again in 2007 with her long-time teammate Rosie MacLennan in synchronized trampoline. She also won individual bronze in 2009, synchro silver in 2009 and 2011 (both with MacLennan), and team silver (2007) and bronze (2009, 2011).
“I dreamed of winning the World Championships, the highest level of competition for my sport before its Olympic inclusion,” said Cockburn. “All of my training finally came together in 2003 when I became the World Champion – the first Canadian to do so. My coach and I were both crying. It was his dream to coach a World Champion so that’s one of my greatest sports memories.”
“Karen was the first World Champion from Canada but will be known more for competing at four Olympics for trampoline, making finals every time and coming in the top-4 at every one,” said Dave Ross her personal coach for 26 years at Skyriders Trampoline Place in Richmond Hill, ON. “Considered by many as having the most beautiful form, Karen has inspired generations of athletes across Canada and has been a role model for her modesty, hard work, and focus.”
Together with synchronized partners Lydia Zanon, Heather Ross-McManus, Marianne Saint-Jacques, and MacLennan, Cockburn collected an unsurpassed 52 World Cup medals in individual and/or synchronized trampoline between 1995 and 2015. Add to that her unmatched 14 senior individual national titles, and being named Gymnastics Canada’s trampoline athlete of the year a record 10-times, there is little question that Cockburn’s career has impacted and inspired all she has come into contact with.
“Karen’s dedication to trampoline gymnastics is grounded in a deep passion and love for the sport, and her commitment and achievements in the sport have had a profound influence on the growth and participation in trampoline gymnastics across the country, and the acclaim and respect for the sport internationally,” said Peter Nicol, President and CEO of Gymnastics Canada.
“Karen put trampoline on the map for Canada and paved the way for our success. For me personally, she changed my dream of being an Olympian into a reality. Watching her qualify and train for the Olympics in Sydney, and then stand on the podium, gave me a realistic view of what it takes to get there,” said MacLennan, gold medallist for Canada in trampoline at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. “She’s had incredible success, but has always stayed humble – showing us that Canadian values like sportsmanship and humility, combined with determination and perseverance produce the best athletes.”
Following the London 2012 Olympic Games, Cockburn decided to start a family with her husband Mathieu Turgeon, a fellow bronze-medal winner from the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Their daughter, three-year-old Emilie, was the motivation for Cockburn to return to competition in 2014 with the goal of competing in front of her at the 2015 Pan American Games in her hometown of Toronto. A broken ankle made that journey a tough one, but she reached her goal of competing there and took home the bronze medal.
“Having my daughter watch me compete at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, and winning a medal for Canada in front of Emilie, and all of my friends and family was such a special moment. I wanted to show my girl that anything is possible,” said Cockburn.
Cockburn continued to train with her eyes set on a fifth Olympic Games, but after not advancing to the finals at the 2015 World Championships, and thereby not qualifying an additional spot for Canada at the Olympics, Cockburn instead continued to train alongside MacLennan, supporting and helping her as much as she could.
“Karen has such a strong strategic mind – she was key in helping me with the routine I ended up competing at the Games in Rio, and she’s always been so willing to share that competitive advantage with many of the athletes at Skyriders and on the national team,” said MacLennan.
Beyond the field of play, Karen has been an avid volunteer and supporter of various organizations that focus on issues such as ending gender inequality, increasing women’s participation in sport, and removing financial barriers for youth to participate in sport. She has also been an advocate on behalf of, and for athletes, through serving on various program committees and Gymnastics Canada’s Board of Directors, and as a mentor to other national team members.
“Karen is retiring as the most decorated trampolinist in Olympic history, after a career that has had a tremendous impact on sport in our country, undoubtedly inspiring many young athletes along the way. Karen, on behalf of the Canadian Olympic Committee, congratulations, you have made Canada proud,” said Tricia Smith, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
“It’s always moving to mark the close of an outstanding athletic career such as Karen Cockburn’s,” said the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. “We celebrate not only her past accomplishments, but also her immense contributions to her sport and her country. Her achievements in trampoline allowed Canada to shine on the world stage, and her qualities as an athlete will continue to inspire young Canadian gymnasts. Canada supports its athletes and wishes them all the best at every stage of their careers, and Karen’s well-deserved retirement is no exception!”
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