Kathleen Heddle, right, and Marnie McBean are all smiles after winning the award for outstanding pairs at the Canadian Sport Awards in Toronto on March 25, 1997. Olympic rowing champion Kathleen Heddle has died of cancer at age 55. Heddle, born in Trail, B.C., and Marnie McBean won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996. Heddle also earned gold with the women’s eight in 1992. Heddle died Monday at home in Vancouver, according to a Rowing Canada statement issued Wednesday on behalf of her family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Frayer

Kathleen Heddle, right, and Marnie McBean are all smiles after winning the award for outstanding pairs at the Canadian Sport Awards in Toronto on March 25, 1997. Olympic rowing champion Kathleen Heddle has died of cancer at age 55. Heddle, born in Trail, B.C., and Marnie McBean won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996. Heddle also earned gold with the women’s eight in 1992. Heddle died Monday at home in Vancouver, according to a Rowing Canada statement issued Wednesday on behalf of her family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Frayer

Olympic rowing champion Kathleen Heddle dead of cancer at age 55

Canada’s Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996

Three-time Olympic rowing champion Kathleen Heddle has died of cancer at age 55.

Canada’s Heddle and Marnie McBean won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 in the coxless pair and double sculls respectively. Heddle also earned gold with the women’s eight in 1992.

The duo carried Canada’s flag at the 1996 closing ceremonies in Atlanta.

“I am crushed and without words today at this loss,” McBean wrote Wednesday in a social-media post. “Too soon.”

Heddle battled breast and lymph-node cancer followed by melanoma and brain cancer for six years.

She died Monday at home in Vancouver, according to a Rowing Canada statement issued Wednesday on behalf of her family.

“While our grief is as heavy as the darkest moment of night, the gifts given to us by Kathleen shine bright as the moon and stars,” her family said in the statement.

“With time, memories of our happiest days with Kathleen will be sure to overcome our tears.”

The statement included a November, 2020 quote from Heddle: “How is it that amongst some of the worst days ever, you can also experience some of the best?”

Heddle was born in Trail, but her family moved to Vancouver when she was an infant. She became a rower while attending the University of British Columbia.

Heddle and McBean are the only Canadian athletes to win three gold medals in Summer Olympic Games. They also claimed gold in the pair at the 1991 and 1995 world championships.

Heddle’s quiet resolve was the foil to McBean’s more dominant personality.

“Kathleen had an incredible sense of touch, seemingly aware of the natural rhythm and flow in things,” her family wrote in its tribute to her.

“Kathleen loved the serenity of being on the water and in nature, always a proponent of wearing a hat and sunscreen, even on a cloudy day.”

Heddle and McBean were inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

“It doesn’t seem possible that this incredible athlete and beautiful person is gone,” Heddle’s Canadian rowing teammate Silken Laumann wrote in a social-media post. “The world has lost a true hero.”

Heddle is survived by her husband Mike and children Lyndsey and Mac.

“Rowing was part of Kathleen’s life but they were the whole of it,” wrote McBean.

Canadian Olympic Committee president and former Olympic rower Tricia Smith was Heddle’s friend.

“Kathleen was the greatest of Olympians in every sense of the word and a rock for all who knew her,” Smith said in a statement.

“A proud Canadian of such depth of character, she approached everything she did with integrity and grace.

“Never seeking the limelight and always looking out for others, she represented the best of Olympic values.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Letters to the Editor.
Lights lift our spirits on dull rainy nights

Brightly-lit properties longer after Christmas appreciated

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Municipality of North Cowichan.
Join North Cowichan for a dialogue about community character

Dialogues to be held online on two dates next week

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor. (Photo by Bernard Thibodeau)
MacGregor to host virtual town hall on the Canada Pharmacare Act

NDP MP and Critic for Finance Peter Julian will join the Zoom platform

Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Virtual ‘lunch and learn’ to explore opportunities to strengthen Cowichan circular economy

Participants will learn the basics of the concept and how it can increase economic opportunity

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read