Kathleen Heddle, three-time Olympic rowing champion, died of cancer at age 55.
Canada’s Heddle and his rowing partner, Marnie McBean, won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 respectively in coxless pairs and pairs. Heddle also won gold with the women’s eight in 1992.
“I am crushed and speechless today in the face of this loss,” McBean wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Too early.”
Kathleen Heddle 1965-2021.
3x Olympic Champion + + +
The best ever
I am crushed and speechless today at this loss. Too early. https://t.co/7JFNkOXLva
Heddle battled breast and lymph node cancer, followed by melanoma and brain cancer for six years.
She died Monday at her Vancouver home, according to a Rowing Canada statement released Wednesday on behalf of her family.
“As our grief is as heavy as the darkest moment of the night, the gifts Kathleen has given us shine like the moon and the stars,” her family said in the statement.
“In time, the memories of our happiest days with Kathleen will be sure to overcome our tears.”
The statement included a November 2020 quote from Heddle: “How come among the worst days of all time you can experience some of the best as well?”
Heddle was born in Trail, British Columbia, but her family moved to Vancouver when she was a baby. She became a rower while attending the University of British Columbia.
Heddle and McBean are the only Canadian athletes to win three gold medals at the Summer Olympics. They also won gold in the pair at the 1991 and 1995 world championships.
His quiet determination was the foil of McBean’s most dominant personality.
WATCH | A look back at Heddle and McBean’s golden partnership:
“Kathleen had an incredible sense of touch, seemingly aware of the natural rhythm and flow of things,” her family wrote in their tribute.
“Kathleen loved the serenity of being on the water and in nature, always a fan of wearing a hat and sunscreen, even on a cloudy day.”
Heddle and McBean were inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
“It doesn’t seem possible that this amazing athlete and beautiful person is gone,” Silken Laumann, Heddle’s Canadian rowing teammate, wrote on Twitter. “The world has lost a real hero.”
“Rowing was part of Kathleen’s life, but they were part of it,” McBean wrote.
Canadian Olympic Committee President and former Olympic rower Tricia Smith was Heddle’s friend.
“Kathleen was the tallest Olympian in every sense of the word and a rock to anyone 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 on the lookout for others, she represented the best of Olympic values. “
Heddle is survived by her husband, Mike, and her children, Lyndsey and Mac.