Rosannagh MacLennan's mom urged her to talk to the Olympic trampolinist training at her gym and get some tips from the young woman about how she became so good.
MacLennan was an 11-year-old with real potential at Skyriders Trampoline Place in Richmond Hill, Ont. While kids at school talked about becoming astronauts, she chattered about being an Olympian.
Karen Cockburn was a 19-year-old veteran of the same club, and MacLennan's eyes were glued to her. Cockburn was headed for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, training with skills the youngster dreamed of trying.
Some 12 years later, the two women are training partners, friends, and among the world's best trampolinists vying for the podium at the London Olympics. Cockburn, now a three-time Olympic medalist, helped show MacLennan the road to a successful high-performance career. Now earning her own medals internationally, MacLennan has helped push Cockburn to remain among the best entering her fourth Olympics.
MacLennan, of King City, Ont., started trampoline at seven, made Ontario's team by nine, and was competing internationally by 11. She started at a small local club and moved with her two older brothers to Skyriders, home of Canadian coach Dave Ross. She watched the big kids, including Cockburn and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Turgeon, who later married Cockburn.
"We would see Karen and Matt, and we were fascinated," MacLennan said. "I was like, 'People at my gym are going to the Olympics.' Having that fuel and motivation consistently over the years was like, 'That's what I want to do, and that's how I get there.'"
MacLennan worked up the courage to talk to Cockburn, and they struck up a friendship.
"My first memories of Rosie were of a little kid having trouble getting up on to the trampoline," said Cockburn, a native of Stouffville, Ont. "When we see a talented kid coming up the ranks, they stand out, and I noticed her. We eventually got to know each other, and she realized I wasn't such a scary person."
After Cockburn's second Olympics in 2004, MacLennan ended the veteran's streak of seven straight Canadian titles. They then became a synchronized team in 2006 and dominated internationally in the non-Olympic event. Cockburn was a near-lock to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, but a great showing at the 2007 world championships gave Canada a second spot, and MacLennan was off to her first Olympics.
"It was overwhelming," said MacLennan, who finished seventh in Beijing, as Cockburn earned a second silver. "Karen and Matt told me what to expect at the Olympics, but I was so happy just to be there last time. In London, it will be different. I know what to expect and I know how to prepare myself."
As the Aug. 4 women's Olympic competition nears, 23-year-old MacLennan's recent results suggest she is as serious a contender as 31-year-old Cockburn. MacLennan won Canadian championships in 2009 and 2011 and gold at the Pan American Games last fall after an ill Cockburn withdrew. MacLennan also won the London test event.
Cockburn is ranked No. 3 in the world, and MacLennan is fifth, behind top-ranked Dan Li and No. 2 Huang Shanshan, both of China. The two Canadians recently proved the Chinese can be beat, as MacLennan won the last World Cup event of the season, and Cockburn took silver.
Cockburn remains one of the most precise jumpers in the sport, with an unrivalled ability to stay in the middle of the trampoline. Even as equipment has changed, and air time has been added into the scoring, Cockburn remains competitive. MacLennan and Cockburn have pushed each other.
"We have always supported each other, yet we're very competitive, but it's healthy," said Cockburn, who had MacLennan as a bridesmaid in her 2007 wedding. "We have very different strengths and weaknesses. She is trying new skills that aren't in my repertoire because you don't need them now, but you will down the road."
Cockburn may become the first Canadian to win medals in four straight Summer Olympics. She says it's her last. Only two other trampolinists are doing a fourth Games, Anna Dogonadze of Germany (2004 gold medalist) and Uzbekistan's Ekaterina Khilko (2008 bronze medalist). Only Cockburn has three medals.
"I don't have to guess what the best international calibre is like or watch videos," MacLennan said. "That top-calibre athlete has been right here, pushing me on a daily basis."