One of Canada’s most decorated Olympians, McBean’s legendary rowing career started in 1985 when she became a member of the Argonaut Rowing Club in her hometown of Toronto. She advanced quickly through the sport, achieving success at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and at Western University before setting out on a record-breaking international career.

“In 1986, when I was selected to the Junior National Team there was an assessment fee that my parents may have seen as out of step with the fact that it was only my second-year rowing,” said McBean. “Row Ontario (then Ontario Rowing Association) assisted with the payment significantly and I was able to convince my parents that $850 wasn’t going to be wasted on another ‘new’ sport. By the end of the year – I had my first international medal (bronze) and my career had begun in earnest. To be part of Row Ontario’s first Hall of Fame class is an honour. I am grateful for their presence and impact at the beginning and for the recognition at the end of my career.”

McBean made her debut on the senior elite international stage in 1989, placing fourth as part of the women’s quad at the Senior World Championships. A few short years later, national team coach Al Morrow paired her with Kathleen Heddle, a partnership that would go on to an unparalleled run of success throughout the 1990’s. After winning a gold medal in the pair as well as the eight at the 1991 World Championships, McBean got her first taste of Olympic gold in 1992, claiming victory in the same events – the eight and the coxless pair – in Barcelona.

Four years later she earned two more Olympic medals, a gold in the double sculls with Heddle and a bronze in the quadruple sculls at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In addition to her Olympic success, McBean won gold at the 1995 and 1999 Pan Am Games in the double and single respectively, won eight Senior World Championship medals and was the 1994 Overall World Cup Singles Champion. She was set to compete at her third Olympics in 2000 in the single, but was forced to withdraw shortly before the games due to a back injury. At the time of her retirement, she had won either an Olympic or World Championship medal in every boat class and was in the Guinness Book of World Records along with Heddle as the winningest female rowers at the Olympics of all time.

A graduate of Western University with a degree in kinesiology, McBean has previously been inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1994), the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1997) and was an inaugural inductee into the Canadian Rowing Hall of Fame (2016). She has also been recognized for her leadership and advocacy with the 2016 Mark S. Bonham Diversity Award and the 2020 Canadian Sport – Bruce Kidd Leadership Award, and is a recipient of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal (1995), the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In retirement from elite rowing competition, McBean has been a champion for the sport of rowing and tirelessly promoted it as a television broadcaster during Olympic games, on social media, in interviews, and at many local events and appearances. In 2019, she was chosen as Canada’s chef de mission and will represent and lead Canada once again at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Career Highlights:

  • 4-time Olympic medalist: 1992 Olympics – Coxless Pair (Gold), Eight (Gold), 1996 Olympics – Coxless Pair (Gold), Quadruple Sculls (Bronze)
  • Eight Senior World Championship medals (3 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze)
  • 2-time Pan Am Games gold medalist: 1995 Pan Am Games – Double, 1999 Pan Am Games – Single
  • Overall World Cup Singles Champion (1994)
  • Won either an Olympic or World Championship medal in every boat class