At the time, MacLennan said she was too nervous to go and speak with her role model in the sport.
“As I grew up my mom would push me to talk to [Cockburn] and to ask her ‘What were you doing at my age?’ and ‘What did you do this at this point?'” MacLennan said.
Now 23, MacLennan trains with the three-time Olympic medalist at Skyriders as they both prepare for the upcoming Summer Olympics in London. This year’s Olympics will be Cockburn’s fourth — the 31-year-old already has two silver medals and one bronze medal — and MacLennan’s second.
“I started training with her and then it became more of a friendship and a teammate,” MacLennan said, adding they have become close friends and always room with each other when they travel for competitions.
MacLennan and Cockburn have had the same coach, Dave Ross, for their entire trampoline careers. Ross opened Skyriders in Richmond Hill, Ont., in 1990 after coaching for more than 20 years.
He wanted to create an environment where older athletes could reach the top level in the sport while inspiring younger generations training there as well, he said.
“The whole program was designed around making it comfortable for the older athletes so they would stay in the sport long enough to get good,” Ross said. “Once you’ve got success, it’s like a bigger reactor.”
MacLennan won the gold medal in Guadalajara, Mexico, at the 2011 Pan Am Games and competed at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics where she came in seventh place. In November, MacLennan’s silver medal at the 28th Trampoline and Tumbling World Championships in Birmingham, England, qualified her for this summer’s Olympics.
MacLennan and Cockburn also compete together internationally in synchronized trampoline events, where their teamwork has earned them eight consecutive gold medals in World Cup events since 2006.
“Over the years I’ve definitely helped [the younger athletes] out, especially Rosie,” Cockburn said. “We’re pretty close and now she’s at the top level as well, so now we’re able to help each other.”
That team dynamic is a big boost to her solo routines, MacLennan said.
“Even though it’s an individual sport, it’s a more team dynamic in terms of pushing each other, helping each other, supporting each other,” she said. “You probably spend as much time with these people as you do your family.”
Trampoline gymnasts generally reach the peak of their careers as they get older, usually in their late 20s, Ross said.
Cockburn said this summer’s Olympics will be her last, but MacLennan said she plans to continue competing and would like to participate in the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto.
But first things first, which for MacLennan means setting her sights on winning a medal this summer in London.
“At the Games we’re aiming first of all to get into the finals,” she said. “From there both Karen and I want to be on the podium. We’re working together to see if we can do that.”