Karen Cockburn leapt to some of Canada's greatest heights. Now, the trampolinist is sticking her landing.
On Sunday, the three-time Olympic medallist announced her retirement from the sport at the 2017 Canadian Championships in Trampoline Gymnastics in Oshawa, Ont.
"For as long as I can remember I've been wearing the red and white. It has been a great honour to represent my country for the past 25 years," said Cockburn. "It's hard to believe my role as an elite athlete has come to a close."
Elite may be an understatement. Cockburn won eight medals at the trampoline world championships over her decorated career, including two gold. In 2003, she became the first Canadian to be victorious, winning the individual title. She added a synchro crown in 2007 in Quebec City.
"I dreamed of winning the world championships," she said. "All of my training came together finally came together in 2003. My coach [Dave Ross] and I were both crying. It was his dream to coach a world champion so that's one of my greatest memories."
Ross served as Cockburn's personal coach for her entire 26-year career. He oversaw her through four Olympics that saw her win bronze in 2000 and silvers in 2004 and 2008 before a fourth-place finish in 2012.
Ross viewed firsthand the impact Cockburn, a pioneer of Canadian trampoline, had on younger gymnasts.
"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, focus," said Ross.
One such athlete is reigning two-time Olympic gold-medal trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, who teamed with Cockburn in 2006 for synchro, and the two have trained together ever since.
"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," said MacLennan.
MacLennan ran with that reality, turning it into unprecedented Olympic success for a Canadian. She and Cockburn won world championship synchro gold together in 2007, prior to MacLennan's jump to the national stage.
"Karen has such a 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," said MacLennan.
Now, Cockburn is moving on to impart that knowledge and inspiration on her three-year-old daughter Emilie. When she had Emilie in 2014, Cockburn planned to retire. Instead, Emilie was her inspiration to keep competing, and she bounced back from a broken ankle to win bronze at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
"I wanted to show my daughter that anything is possible," said Cockburn.
For Cockburn — an elite athlete and inspiration, simultaneously — that was always abundantly clear.
An earlier version of this story stated that Cockburn won eight gold medals at the world championships. She won two gold medals and eight medals overall.Jul 17, 2017 6:39 AM ET