The women's eights team poses with their medals

Lesley Thompson-Willie

golden leaf icon for Hall of Fame

Team Canada Medal Count

Gold medal icon 1
Silver medal icon 3
Bronze medal icon 1


Lesley Thompson-Willie is the legendary coxswain of the Canadian women’s eight. At Rio 2016 she will tie the all-time record for Games appearances by a woman, set at eight by kayaker Josefa Idem (who competed for West Germany and Italy) at London 2012. It was at those Games that Thompson-Willie won her fifth career Olympic medal, a silver with the eight, tying her as Canada’s most decorated summer Olympian with Phil Edwards (athletics) and putting her in a tie for second as Canada’s most decorated Olympian behind speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes, who each have six medals. Thompson-Willie is the first Canadian athlete to win medals at five different Olympic Games. Her Olympic career was to have begun at Moscow 1980 but she was unable to compete due to the Canadian boycott. Instead, she debuted at Los Angeles 1984 where she won silver with the coxed four. Her career highlight is the gold medal won with the eight at Barcelona 1992. Following a silver at Atlanta 1996 and a bronze at Sydney 2000, Thompson-Willie retired from rowing, only to return to the national team in 2006. Over the course of her illustrious career she has competed at 19 world championships, winning 10 medals (one gold, four silver, five bronze), highlighted by the world title with the eight in 1991. Under her leadership, the eight has reached the podium at each world championship dating back to 2010. Thompson-Willie was named to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1994.

Getting to know…

Family: Husband Paul Willie… Brothers Mark and Graham… Getting into the Sport: Had been a gymnast until she sustained a serious knee injury in the mid-1970s while competing for the University of Western Ontario… Was recruited to the varsity rowing team because her small size and athleticism made her a good fit as a coxswain… Outside Interests: Earned her Bachelor of Arts in 1982 and Bachelor of Education in 1983 at the University of Western Ontario… Off the water is a teacher and librarian…

Olympic Highlights

Games Sport Event Finish
1980 MoscowRowing - -
1984 Los AngelesRowingCoxed Four - WomenSilver
1988 SeoulRowingCoxed Four - Women7
1992 BarcelonaRowingCoxed Eight - WomenGold
1996 AtlantaRowingCoxed Eight - WomenSilver
2000 SydneyRowingCoxed Eight - WomenBronze
2008 BeijingRowingCoxed Eight - Women4
2012 LondonRowingCoxed Eight - WomenSilver
2016 RioRowingCoxed Eight - Women5

Notable International Results

Olympic Games: 2016 - 5th (W8+); 2012 – SILVER (W8+); 2008 – 4th (W8+); 2000 – BRONZE (W8+); 1996 – SILVER (W8+); 1992 – GOLD (W8+); 1988 – 7th (W4+); 1984 – SILVER (W4+)

FISA World Championships: 2015 – BRONZE (W8+); 2014 – SILVER (W8+); 2011 – SILVER (W8+); 2010 – SILVER (W8+); 2009 – 6th (W8+); 2007 – 6th (W8+); 2006 – 5th (W8+); 1999 – BRONZE (W8+); 1998 – BRONZE (W8+); 1997 – SILVER (W8+); 1995 – 6th (W8+); 1994 – 7th (W8+); 1991 – GOLD (W8+); 1987 – 6th (W4+), 7th (W8+); 1986 – BRONZE (W4+); 1985 – BRONZE (W4+); 1983 – 4th (W4+); 1982 – 5th (W8+); 1981 – 4th (W8+)