Kathleen Heddle – Three-Time Olympic Champion Dies

Kathleen Heddle 1965 – 2021. Photos: Kevin Light, Canadian Olympic Committee

15 January 2021

By Göran R Buckhorn

Rowing Canada Aviron released a statement on 13 January that Olympic rower Kathleen Heddle had died, age 55.

After a six-year battle with breast and lymph node cancer, followed by melanoma and brain cancer, Kathleen Heddle passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family, at home in Vancouver, B.C., on 11 January.

Kathleen Heddle was born in 1965 in Trail, B.C., the daughter of Marilyn and Duncan Heddle. When Kathleen was 8 months old, the family moved to the neighbourhood Kitsilano in Vancouver. Kathleen became interested in sport, an interest that continued at University of British Columbia, UBC, first with volleyball then rowing. At UBC, she took a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and later received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws.

Heddle was a successful rower and took four Olympic medals at two Games. In 1992, she won the gold medal in the coxless pairs and in the eights, and in 1996 she took the gold medal in the double sculls and the bronze in the quadruple sculls. Marnie McBean was a member of all these crews, and she and Heddle were the first Canadians to win three Olympic gold medals.

On Wednesday, McBean wrote on Twitter, ‘I am crushed and without words today at this loss. Too soon.’

Heddle was also a four-time world champion in the eights (1991 and 1994), the coxless pairs (1991) and the double sculls (1995). She also took a silver medal in the quadruple sculls (1995).

Kathleen Heddle was awarded the Order of British Columbia and was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. She was awarded the Thomas Keller Medal, the highest award within the sport of rowing, in 1999.

A celebration of Kathleen’s life will be held at a later date.  For more information or condolences, please contact kathleenheddlecondolences@gmail.com

Kathleen Joan Heddle, OBC, born 27 November 1965, died 11 January 2021. She is survived by her husband Mike Bryden, their children Lyndsey and Mac, and her two sisters, Libby Heddle and Peggy Neal.

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