Silken Suzette Laumann was born on November 14, 1964. She is a Canadian champion rower. Laumann began her sports career as a runner,but at age 17 turned to rowing along with her older sister, Danièle. They quickly advanced to the Canadian national team and in 1984 at Los Angeles, teamed to win a bronze medal in the Olympic double sculls.
After Danielle retired from the sport, Silken Laumann continued with other partners and began to scull a single as well. In 1985, she finished 4th at the World Championships in the single sculls.
After a single sculls gold medal at the 1987 Pan-American Games, she returned to the doubles for the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, finishing 7th with Kay Worthington.
After the 1988 Olympics, Silken Laumann focused almost exclusively on the single sculls. She finished 7th at the 1989 World Championships and progressed to 2nd in 1990, before winning the singles World Championship in 1991.
She dominated women’s sculling in that year, also winning international titles at Lucerne, San Diego, and Hazelwinkel (BEL) as part of the World Cup. With the 1992 Olympics on the horizon, Silken Laumann was the heavy favorite to win the gold medal in single sculls.
In May 1992, just 10 weeks before the Olympic Games, Silken Laumann was injured in a brutal rowing accident that left her right leg shattered and useless. Reigning world champion in Single Sculls rowing, Silken was told by doctors she might never row again.
Twenty-seven days, five operations, and countless hours of gruelling rehabilitation later, Silken was back in her shell, ready to pursue her Olympic dream. When the starter’s pistol rang out on August 2, 1992, Silken made the greatest comeback in Canadian sports history, winning the bronze medal for Canada, and capturing the hearts of a nation.
She also won a gold medal as part of a quad sculls team at the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina, Silken and her three crew mates were stripped of their gold medals after she tested positive for an over-the-counter cold remedy which contained a banned substance.
She was assured by the Canadian physician at the site that it was all right to take Benadryl to treat a cold. It was. Unfortunately, she took Benadryl Allergy and Decongestant capsules which were not okay, containing pseudoephedrine, a decongestant which also acts as a stimulant.
Silken accepted responsibility for the inadvertent error in her choice of cold medicine but also believes the doctor failed her by not differentiating between the two Benadryl preparations. However, all this did not stop her from being awarded the Canadian Olympic Order that same year.
Laumann’s career did not end at Barcelona. Still with nerve and muscle damage to her injured leg, she finished 2nd at the Worlds in 1995 in the singles, and repeated that finish for an Olympic silver medal at Atlanta in 1996 before retiring. But it was her courageous performance at Barcelona for which she will always be best remembered.
In November 2003, she established a national charity to improve the quality of life for children called Silken’s Active KidsMovement, which is a not-for-profit organization designed to promote the health benefits of physical activity, and to inspire and support Canadians wishing to increase physical activity levels in children.