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

Gary Bender from Bailey Electric secures two art banners on lampposts at Argyle Street and Sixth Avenue in May 2020. Despite a delay due to COVID-19 measures, the Rotary Club of Port Alberni-Arrowsmith was able to collect and put up half of the art banners it usually does in the Rotary Arts District. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Rotary Arts District banner program switches to ‘paint at home’ for 2021

Arrowsmith Rotary Club needs 80 registrations to go ahead this year

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
BUDGET 2021: City of Port Alberni looks at tax increase of 3.95 percent

City of Port Alberni held its first budget meeting of the year

Emma Nunn from Alberni Valley Rescue Squad waits at the summit of Mount Arrowsmith for the rest of the AVRS rope rescue team on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
UPDATE: Injured hikers among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni have chosen the Voyent Alert! app for emergency notifications. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni, ACRD unveil new emergency alert system

Program is a response to criticism of botched communication after 2018 tsunami warning

Students from the junior leadership class at ADSS help homelessness and addictions advocate Mark Braunagel load backpacks and bags full of supplies into his truck on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Students collected supplies to be handed out to some of Port Alberni’s most vulnerable people. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni high school students fill backpacks to help city’s homeless

Junior leadership students embraced service project, said teacher Mike Roberts

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

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

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

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

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

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

Most Read