Karen Furneaux, of Waverley, has two world championship titles in sprint kayak and three Olympic appearances under her belt. She has a successful wellness and leadership training business built on her athletic experiences. She has an undaunted sense of positivity that rubs off on everyone she meets, and she has an indescribable quality that makes it all possible.
Always enthralled with sport and watching the Olympics on TV, Furneaux started out in figure skating, ski racing, gymnastics and swimming. She started paddling in war canoe at age 12 as an extension of her participation in swimming at Cheema Aquatic Club.
She remembers a particular race in Windsor at Pisequid during her first days of Bantum competition, where she had to race in a blue jug boat with no steering and ended up doing the whole race in a zigzag. This is just one example of how she never let an obstacle hold her back. Furneaux would insist on redoing a practice run until she completed it under her goal time.
She paddled six days a week in the morning and evening with weight training in the afternoon, all while taking full-time classes at Dalhousie.
In 1993, Furneaux went to the Junior World Championships in the Czech Republic at age 16. After the 1993 Worlds Furneaux came home and raced at the Canadian Championships and won, knowing that her K1 had improved a lot.
She continued to improve, coming second in the K1 at the 1994 World Cup. In 1998 Furneaux had the pleasure of beating the Hungarians in Hungary at the World Championships during the last race of the regatta, winning gold in the K2 200-metres. This achievement was followed by two golds at the 1999 Pan-Am Games, and her first Olympic competition in 2000, where she had a fifth-place finish in the K2 500-metre event.
In 2001, she finally single-handedly closed the gap on the world’s fastest paddlers and won a world championship in the K1 200-meetre event following a season-long winning streak. Furneaux has accomplished a lot of perfection in her career of nine World Championship medals and 50 World Cup podium finishes.
Despite multiple injuries during her years of international competition, Furneaux qualified for the Olympics twice more and proved her dominance at the 2005 World Championships when she medalled in every distance in the singles discipline.
Now President of her company I Promise Performance, she counts herself fortunate to be able to share her experiences with kids as a professional speaker and as an ambassador for the Hall of Fame’s education program.
• Two-time World Champion, 1998 & 2001
• Nine-time World Championship Medallist
• Ranked 2nd in the world after 2005
• 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympian
• Fifth place finish in the K-2 500 at 2000 Olympics
• Winner of over 50 World Cup Medals
• 2 Gold at the 1999 Pan Am Games
• 5-time Nova Scotia Female Athlete of the Year