Volume 92, Issue 18

Friday, October 2, 1998

homing in


Western alumni rowing into history

Courtesy of Nike Canada

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT. Leslie Thompson, former Mustang and current coxswain for the Canadian women's eight, leads the charge into the 2000 Summer Olympics

By Justin Klein

Gazette Staff

Lesley Thompson grew up in Kingston, Ontario. When the time came to decide which university she wanted to attend, Western was the clear winner in her mind.

"All my friends and I had to decide between Western and Queen's," Thompson said. "But when the decision was made, Western wasn't in our hometown and it was known to have a great athletic program."

She came to Western in 1977 to major in kinesiology and pursue her love for gymnastics. However, in 1978 Lesley decided to pick up an oar and soon after, this natural rower found many opportunities begging for her talent. She was a great addition to the Western rowing team in 1978 and her career as a coxswain was just beginning.

Everything seemed to go just right for this young star and in two short years she found herself invited by the Canadian National Rowing team to compete at the Olympics. The second-year rower found herself steering the women's eight boat in Moscow at the 1980 Olympics. Lesley gave it all she had, but for the first time in her career, she came away only with a thank you card.

Nonetheless, Thompson's appearance in the Olympics made her a distinguished Western rower. Western honoured her efforts at the games with a purple blanket award.

Lesley continued to row at Western in her free time and in 1984 she again found herself invited back to the Olympics in Los Angeles. This time, Lesley was determined to stand on a platform and make her country proud. Her wish came true when her boat finished second and she claimed the silver medal.

"I'd been rowing for quite a long time and words could not explain how it felt to stand on that platform," the silver medalist said. "It took a long time to actually win and I really appreciated it."

Thompson's career continued to expand to new horizons, as she claimed another prize in 1986 for winning the Commonwealth Games. With this achievement under her belt, the only thing missing from her resume was a gold medal at the Olympics.

In 1988, Thompson traveled to Seoul to compete in the Olympics for a third time. Her hard work and determination were not quite enough this time for her to come away with a medal. All she could do was focus on improving for the 1992 Olympics.

In 1992, Thompson traveled to Barcelona to once again compete in the women's eight. This time the veteran rower was able to power Canada to gold, accomplishing her goal and winning the hearts of Canadians.

Thompson's career continued to flourish after this great achievement. She appeared in the 1996 Olympics, where she added another Olympic medal, his time silver, to her ever-growing collection. This magnificent feat paved the way for the greatest honour any athlete can obtain – an induction into the Olympic Hall of Fame.

With such tremendous successes in the field of rowing, there is little else Thompson can accomplish. She has won three medals, has appeared five times in the Olympic games, has been honoured by her school and has been honoured by the Olympic committee. Nonetheless, this hungry winner still craves more.

"I am travelling with the Canadian National team to Pittsburgh next weekend," she explained. "My goal is to win that as well as winning a gold in the 2000 Olympics."

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998