The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Silken Laumann

Rowing

1991


Photograph of Silken Laumann

Photograph of Silken Laumann

Date
1990’s
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Now that’s a winning recipe!

Add one part singles scull and a heaping amount of motivated Olympic rower with a burning desire to win, an obsession with developing the most efficient technique to power the boat through the water, and willing to apply a herculean work ethic.

Then, stir in one of the most successful rowing coaches on the planet. Voila!

Silken Laumann of Mississauga, Ontario, had been on the Canadian Team since 1983. Rowing was already the focus of her life – she did not lack desire. She strongly believed coaching was the missing ingredient.

So when she learned that foremost British rowing coach Mike Spracklen was coming to Victoria, British Columbia, to train the Canadian men’s eight, it took her but a nanosecond to decide to completely uproot her life. She moved to Victoria in the spring of 1990 determined to have Spracklen coach her. Convincing him to take her on was a coup. His only female protégé, she fell into the routines of the powerful men’s team. An innovative taskmaster, Spracklen was both feared and revered by those that had either the good fortune or ‘guts’ to enter his circle.

Laumann knew she was in amazing hands and trusted him implicitly completely submitting to his new program and philosophy. Her training intensity doubled to what it had been. The results were mind-boggling. In just months Silken went from seventh in the world in Single Sculls to second when she claimed a silver medal at the 1990 World Rowing Championships in Tasmania, Australia.

Silken’s technique and fitness kept notching up and in 1991 she launched a ‘coup d’état.’ The Europeans, and in particular the eastern block, had long dominated women’s rowing. In July, Silken clinched Canada’s first World Cup rowing title at the final race in Lucerne, Switzerland. A series of six races counting the best five, she won two, and placed second three times, to defeat Romania’s Elisabeta Lipa for the overall title.

A month later at the World Championships in Vienna, Austria, Silken delivered one of the most exciting single sculls races in history. Once again battling Lipa, Silken exchanged the lead with the Romanian seven times, each trying desperately to break the other, neither ever gaining an advantage of more than half a second. With about two hundred and fifty metres to go, Silken launched an unbelievable final attack that would finally crack her opponent. In that remaining distance she opened up a clear boat length of open water and almost three seconds to become World Champion.

Arriving for practices early and putting in more miles than the others had paid off. Spracklen had convinced his protégé that the eastern block possessed no secrets; they were not unbeatable. Hard work would trump all. And so it did.

Rowing star Laumann ‘honoured’ by Marsh win Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1984
Sarajevo Olympic Games - Bronze medal, double sculls
1990
World rowing championships, Silver medal – single sculls
1991
World rowing championships, Gold medal – single sculls
1991
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1991
Bobbie Rosenfeld Award – Canadian Press female athlete of the year
1992
Barcelona Olympic Games - Bronze medal, single sculls
1992
Bobbie Rosenfeld Award – Canadian Press female athlete of the year
1995
World rowing championships, Silver medal – single sculls
1996
Atlanta Olympic Games - Silver medal, single sculls