Discipline: Sprint Kayak
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Current Residence: Buchanan, Michigan
College: Michigan State University
Club: Niles/Buchanan Kayak Club
- Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games: BRONZE in K-1 500m
- Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games: 4th in K-1 500m and 7th in K-2 500m
- Munich 1972 Olympic Games: 9th in K-1 500m
- 35 National Championships titles, including 11 straight for K-1 500m
- 24 North American Championship titles
- 1966 World Championships in East Berlin: 5th in K-1 500m, 6th in K-2 500m
- 1971 World Championships in Belgrade: 9th in K-1 500m, 9th in K-2 500m
- 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada: 1st in K-1, K-2, and K-4 500m
Honors: 1965 Oklahoma AAU nominee for the Sullivan Award
Family: 2 children - Jennifer and Jeff
Hobbies: Kayaking and race walking
What have you been up to since you finished competing? Raising my family and enjoying life.
What is your favorite Olympic memory? Winning my bronze medal in 1964, paddling K-2 with my sister (Sperry Jones Rademaker) in 1968, and along with my daughter, Jennifer, watching my son, Jeff, compete in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
I was born in 1941 and raised in Oklahoma City, Okla. along with my older sister, Sperry Jones Rademaker. At age 23, I married and left Oklahoma to live in Michigan. I have two children, Jennifer (born 1974) and Jeff (born 1977). In 1991, I divorced and have been living a healthy and quiet life in southwest Michigan.
When I was about 10 years old, my sister and I entered the competitive world of AAU age group swimming. We became good swimmers and tried out for the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Teams but were unsuccessful. My mother knew that competing in the Olympics was our goal so she took us to Rome in 1960 to watch the Games. While there, we went to Canoeing (sprint kayaking) and saw our American women competing. That is when I got the idea that maybe this could become my future Olympic sport.
At the time, my sister and I were attending the University of Michigan. We had heard of a man in Niles, Mich. who sold beautiful wooden Danish flatwater racing kayaks. My mother was able to locate him and that is how we got started. I purchased my first kayak for $250 in the Spring of 1961 and learned to paddle on the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Mich.
That summer I went to my first National Championships in Washington, D.C. Although I didn't win, I knew that sprint kayaking was my sport. I trained very hard the next several years using my background in swimming to enhance my kayak workouts. In the fall of 1962, I transferred to Michigan State University and continued training on Lake Lansing in East Lansing, Mich. Upon graduating from MSU in 1964, my sister and I continued our training in Newport Beach, Calif. that summer.
By September I was fast enough to win all three of my K-1 500m qualification races and make the U.S. Olympic Team, thus achieving my Olympic dream. My sister and I raced K-2 but we came in second to Francine Fox and Gloriane Perrier who went on to win silver in K-2. Sperry would have to wait until 1968 to see her Olympic dream come true. The three of us American women surprised the kayak world in Tokyo with our silver and bronze medals.
I continued on after Tokyo and made the Mexico City and Munich Games. I pretty much retired from competitive racing after 1973. As of 2014, I am still the only U.S. female sprint paddler to win an Olympic medal in singles. Along the way, we started the Niles/Buchanan Kayak Club and I coached future Olympians Greg Barton, Bruce Barton, Pete Deyo, Matt Strieb and my son Jeff Smoke.