Silken Laumann

Silken Laumann

Olympic Hero | Mental Health & Child Advocate

A world champion single sculls rower and a four-time Olympic medallist, Silken Laumann knows what it takes to be the best in the world. She also knows what it means to overcome adversity. While at the peak of her game, a boat crashed into her leg, almost ending her chances of competing in the sport she loved. After three weeks in the hospital, still needing a cane to walk, she competed in the Barcelona Olympic Games to win a bronze medal for Canada. This launched Laumann into the public eye and created a platform for her work as a child advocate, champion for mental health, and a world-class speaker and writer.

Today, Laumann is the founder and president of a visionary not-for-profit, Unsinkable, that runs programs centred on mental and physical well-being. Still in its infancy, Unsinkable has reached five million people worldwide with stories of courage and tenacity, and has inspired thousands of people to move further along their mental health journey. Last year, Unsinkable produced a national television special aired on CTV titled Unsinkable Youth, which explored young people’s experience during the pandemic. It was nominated for a Canadian Academy Award.

A bestselling author, Laumann has written several books including her raw and revealing memoir aptly titled Unsinkable. Called a story of “courage, tenacity, and the resiliency of the human spirit,” by the Globe and Mail, it not only shares her inspiring Olympic story, but also reveals the trauma of growing up in a family where undiagnosed mental illness led to childhood abuse and trauma.

Laumann is a warm and charismatic person who brings herself fully into each presentation, whether virtual or in-person. She believes in the universality of experience. Although not many have competed and won medals for Canada, all of us have dreams, are faced with challenges, and are sometimes flattened by life’s most difficult moments. In her keynotes, Laumann brings together a lifetime of tools and strategies to help all of us live our lives more fully and from a place of self-respect and compassion.

Becoming Unsinkable

Silken Laumann is best known as a four time Olympic rower who overcame a devastating accident in 1992 to win an Olympic Bronze Medal.  Her story though, is so much more than a single moment in Canadian sports history.

In this presentation, Silken shines a spotlight on many of the obstacles she encountered—and overcame—not only in her athletic life, but also the intense personal challenges of her past.  She inspires with the fierce determination she applies to living a bold, loving, successful life today, and encourages her audiences to embrace challenge, accept change, and continue to strive to reach their dreams.

Silver Linings: Living the Up Side of Down

Silken Laumann’s greatest mentor and coach once said to her “every cloud has a silver lining.” This expression came in handy when she sat in a sinking boat wondering if she was going to lose her lower leg, never mind compete at the Olympics in ten weeks’ time. Five years later, when her husband left her without warning, she remembers thinking, “where the heck is the silver lining in this one?”

Silken is no stranger to adversity: living with a mother who suffered from mental illness gave her strength and resiliency that has shaped the course of her life. She believes our experiences are gifts that shape us. Challenge, loss, and change are hard, but there are huge lessons in the experience. To throw away the learning of the journey is throwing away the gift that comes along with the pain. Silken shares her story with strength and honesty and inspires us all that we can not only overcome anything that life throws at us, but that we can live a life of passion, contribution and meaning.