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Cockburn softens the blow for Canada

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Athens — Karen Cockburn will take a silver medal, thank you very much.

So will Canada.

After a disappointing first week in the Olympics, the 23-year-old from Toronto won Canada's second medal of the Athens Games by finishing second in women's trampoline.

She battled a bad case of nerves to do so.

Cockburn, who won a bronze medal four years ago in Sydney, had been touted as a possible gold medalist after winning the 2003 world trampoline championships. With all the chatter about her chances and the pressure she put on herself, Cockburn came to Athens with wobbly knees.

"I was feeling a little shaky in the prelims, seeing a lot of other competitors not hitting their routines," she said.

Cockburn went fourth in the eight-woman final. For five minutes, she held the lead until Anna Dogonadze of Germany dazzled the judges, scoring 39.60 points and edging out the Canadian by 0.40.

Cockburn wasn't surprised. Despite her final routine carrying the highest degree of difficulty, her score of 39.20 was less than she had expected. Her nerves still running rampant, she travelled around the trampoline mat while Dogonadze consistently hit the middle of it.

Cockburn figures that made all the difference.

"I usually score more than 40 points when I'm on the top of the podium," she said. "I already knew it probably wasn't enough. I wasn't thinking that I'd be in first for very long."

Huang Shanshan of China took the bronze with a score of 39.0. Heather Ross-McManus of Almonte, Ont., finished sixth among the 16 competitors at her first Olympics.

Dogonadze's win was a popular one. She had been leading the competition at the Sydney Games, when, feeling ill, she fell off the trampoline during the final. Her misfortune moved Cockburn from fourth to the bronze-medal position.

Cockburn embraced Dogonadze after her performance yesterday, as the German was noisily cheered by the large crowd at the Olympic Indoor Hall.

Cockburn's parents, Colin and Patricia Cockburn, watched the event live on television in the basement of their Toronto home.

They were a little sad not to be in Athens, but said the trip was just too expensive.

"It was a little steep," her mother said. "At this time in our lives we're looking at retirement, not another mortgage."

Patricia Cockburn said she was ecstatic about her daughter's performance. Although her heart felt like it would explode at times, she said, it makes everything worthwhile to see years of effort rewarded.

"We couldn't ask for anything more with what she's accomplished in the sport," she said. "We're just happy for her, happy her goals are coming through."To combat her case of the nerves yesterday, Cockburn used an easy routine for the preliminaries. It served only to land her in eighth place overall, a long way from gold, but she made the final. (After the preliminaries, the scores are thrown out and the athletes in the final start afresh.)

"I couldn't have handled [a more difficult routine]," Cockburn said. "My legs were really shaky. I was really nervous, and when you're like that, you can't hit a hard routine."

If she had tried it, she might have bounced off the trampoline, as some other competitors did.

One, defending Olympic champion Irina Karavaeva of Russia, lost control on a jump and landed on the trampoline's bumper, which pitched her onto her back. The four-time world champion finished 15th.

Canadian coach Dave Ross, whom Cockburn calls the guru of trampoline, said nerves affected everybody yesterday, partly because of the format, which allowed no warm-ups between routines.

With a report from Joe Friesen

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