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

From the left, Midway RCMP seized suspected cannabis, cocaine and fentanyl from a truck pulled over by Conservation Service Officers in the West Boundary Monday, Jan. 17. Photo submitted
Midway RCMP find suspected drugs in traffic stop by Conservation Service Officers

Cpl. Phil Peters said the CSOs were stopping local hunters on Highway 33

A Grand Forks Fire/Rescue water tanker makes it way up the hill on Gibbs Creek Road after a homeowner doused a chimney fire Wednesday, Jan. 20. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Rural Grand Forks homeowner douses chimney fire

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue said the man’s quick thinking put out the flames

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Most Read