Four female rowers in Canadian uniforms wear gold medals

Jennifer Walinga


Jennifer Walinga was a multi-sport athlete in her hometown of Peterborough, Ontario until she discovered rowing at age 15. She counts herself lucky to be influenced by Canadian rowing greats and crewmates Carol Love, Tricia Smith, Lesley Thompson, and Kathleen Heddle. She experienced early success nationally and enjoyed several world championship podium finishes during her career.

The highlight was a double gold medal performance at the 1991 World Rowing Championships in Vienna, Austria. The crew set a world record in the coxless four and then overcame adversity to win the coxed eight by mere inches over the Soviet Union. Walinga continues to race as a masters athlete. With some of her former crewmates, she earned victories in the coxed eight at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2018 and 2019 as well as in the coxless four in 2022 and 2023.

Walinga made her Olympic debut at Seoul 1988 as a member of the coxed four that finished seventh. Heading towards Barcelona 1992, she and her crewmates in the coxless four were undefeated over 28 races and the team was anticipating a repeat of their success from the 1991 World Championships in both the four and the eight.

But Walinga, who was in the stroke seat of both boats, was hit by some bad luck when she experienced a back injury while at the 1992 Olympic Games that took her out of competition. Her teammates were able to overcome the challenge of a last minute crew change and won gold medals in both events. It was particularly thrilling for Walinga to be able to commentate an open water win by the Canadian women’s eight alongside another Canadian rowing great, Roger Jackson. That year marked a high for Canadian rowing with four gold medals (women’s eight, women’s four, women’s pair, men’s eight) and one miraculous bronze by single sculler Silken Laumann, who returned from devastating injuries suffered in a crash at a regatta just four months earlier.

A Little More About Jennifer

Getting into the Sport: Fell in love with the outdoors, running and basketball in elementary school… Outside Interests: Taught K-12 for many years before returning to school to earn her PhD in Organizational Studies and is now a professor and consultant in organizational behaviour and development… Odds and Ends: Enjoys coaching… Always has several pets… Mother of three and active in the sport community… Favourite motto: Focus is your strongest muscle… 

Olympic Highlights

Games Sport Event Finish
Seoul 1988RowingCoxed Four - Women7

Notable International Results

Olympic Games: 1988 - 7th (4+)

World Rowing Championships: 1991 - GOLD (4-), GOLD (8+); 1990 - 4th (2-); 1987 - 5th (4+); 1986 - BRONZE (4+); 1985 - 5th (8+)

World U23/Junior Rowing Championships: 1984 (U23) - SILVER (4+); 1983 (Junior) - 4th (4+)

Commonwealth Games: 1986 - GOLD (4+)

Universiade: 1989 - SILVER (4+)