Kathleen Heddle’s original athletic pursuit at the University of British Columbia was volleyball but, in her third year, she switched to rowing and never looked back. By 1987 she was a member of the Canadian national team and, later that year, won gold in the coxless pairs event at the Pan American Games alongside Kirsten Barnes. She saw less success over the next few years, coming in fourth in the coxless fours at the 1989 and 1990 World Championships, but then began the streak that would lead her to be named one of Canada’s greatest all-time rowers. Between 1991 and her 1996 retirement, she won three gold medals at the World Championships (coxless pairs and eights in 1991 and double sculls in 1995), in addition to silver in the coxed fours in 1995, and just as many at the Olympics (coxless pairs and eights in 1992 and double sculls in 1996), as well as bronze in the quadruple sculls in 1996.
Heddle earned a degree in psychology from UBC, but later worked with the International Rowing Federation, serving as chair of the athletes’ commission from 2000 through 2001, and remained active in sports administration. She is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1994), the Order of British Columbia (1997), Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1997), the University of British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame (2002), and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame (2003). She died in January 2021, following a six-year struggle with cancer.