(Reuters) - Triple Olympic rowing gold medallist Kathleen Heddle, the quiet, stoic foil to flamboyant, gregarious pairs partner Marnie McBean, has died after a long battle with cancer, Rowing Canada said on Wednesday.
She died at the age of 55 on Monday at her home in Vancouver, said a Rowing Canada statement issued on behalf of her family.
"Rowing brought Kathleen to the world stage," Rowing Canada said. "A country and a sport got to know and understand her resolve. A quiet strength was seen; undaunted, unbowed, inspiring.
"As an Olympic and world champion who touched perfection, Kathleen never sought the spotlight.
"A pure athlete, a role model by actions and demeanour. She was revered by teammates, coaches, opponents, and those who knew her best. She was quintessentially Canadian."
Heddle and McBean were in many ways rowing's odd couple but on the water they won gold in the coxless pairs at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and in the double sculls at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
She was also part of the crew that won gold in the women's eights in Barcelona.
"Kathleen Heddle 1965-2021. 3x Olympic Champion + + + Greatest of All Time. I am crushed and without words today at this loss. Too soon," Tweeted McBean, who will serve as Canada's chef de mission at this year's Tokyo Olympics.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)