Without a doubt Canadian rowing crews reigned in Spain at the 1992 Olympics, winning four gold medals. It still stands as the most gold medals Canada has ever won in rowing at an Olympic Games. Each of these four medals won over two electrifying days of finals had direct connections to BC rowers.

The BC members of the 1992 Canadian National Rowing team exemplified a long standing tradition of rowing excellence in BC. Individually, each of these rowers exhibited an outstanding record over a number of years before coming together at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Selected to training camp based on ergometric scores (on land rowing machines) and previous race results, national rowing team members underwent a rigorous training regime, with weekly time trials and races for position. Final selection of the 1992 National team included seven BC athletes.

At the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona, Canada’s rowing teams, heavily supported by British Columbians, demonstrated their superiority. The women’s team gave an outstanding performance, with each BC member winning double gold (Barnes, Munroe, and Taylor for the Straight Fours and Eights; Heddle for the Straight Pairs and Eights), for a total of three first place finishes. The men’s team also put in an impressive race to bring home Gold in the Eights.

Kirsten Barnes began her rowing in high school in 1985, and two years later, brought home a gold medal from the Pan Am Games in the Coxless Pair event. In the 1991 World Championships, she rowed to gold in both the Fours and Eights, and was the University of Victoria’s Female Athlete of the Year for three consecutive years.

Moving from Trail, Kathleen Heddle starting rowing at UBC in 1985. Paired with Marnie McBean for the 1991 Worlds, she won gold in the Pair without Cox event, and gold as a member of the Women’s Eight. She joined the National Senior “A” Team in 1989.

Although Jessica Monroe did not start rowing until 1988, she excelled to the national team in just one year. Along with Kirsten Barnes, Kathleen Heddle, and Brenda Taylor, she rowed to a double gold at the 1991 world championships in both the coxless fours and women’s eight.

Born in Nanaimo, Brenda Taylor started her rowing career at UBC in 1981. In 1986, she rowed to third in the eights at the Commonwealth Games. At the US Nationals in 1989, Brenda placed first in both the fours and eights, then repeated her double gold performance at the 1990 and 1991 world championships.

Darren Barber was the fastest man in Canada on the indoor rowing ergometer, and was second fastest in the world in 1991. He was a member of the crew that gave the German men’s crew, the reigning Olympic champions, their first loss since 1988. Darren rowed straight pairs, straight fours, coxed fours, and eights to gold medal finishes in several international meets.

Derek Porter first rowed at the University of Victoria in 1986, and the next year, was a member of the eight man crew that won gold at the Western Canada Summer Games. Derek was also on the Canadian team that won over the Germans at Duisburg in 1991. His list of first and second place finishes are impressive, ranging from single sculls to the eights.

As with other members of the men’s national team, Michael Rascher demonstrated incredible versatility, equally effective on port and starboard sides of the scull. Born in Fernie, BC, Michael excelled in national competition, placing first in the single sculls at the 1990 Canadian nationals. He joined Porter and Barber in 1991 to defeat the Germans, and made up for a lack of international experience with strength and determination.

Team Members:
Men’s eights: Derek Porter (stroke), Michael Rascher (3), Darren Barber (5).
Women’s eights: Kirsten Barnes, Kathleen Heddle, Jessica Monroe, Brenda Taylor.
Women’s fours: Kirsten Barnes, Jessica Monroe, Brenda Taylor.
Women’s pairs: Kathleen Heddle.

For a more in-depth look at the story of the 1992 Canadian Olympic Rowing Crews, please see the July 2022 Curator’s Corner feature article here: https://bcsportshall.com/curator-corner/thirty-years-since-canadian-rowings-reign-in-spain/