Boat Profiles: Kris Karlson & The FVRA Women’s 8+


The FVRA 2002 Vespoli women’s 8 is a part of rowing history. The Kris Karlson ’85, affectionately referred to as “The Kris”, is named after World Rowing Cup/World Rowing Championship medalist and Olympian, Dr. Kristine Karlson.

Kris Karlson was a 4-year collegiate sweep rower with Williams College. She entered medical school at University of Connecticut in 1985. A chance meeting with Stewart Anderson, rowing coach at Simsbury High School, got her back on the water- this time in a scull. After getting her own single, she kept it at the Trinity Boat House in Hartford and rowed on the Connecticut River.

Essentially a self-taught sculler, Kris entered the 1986 Head of Charles via the lottery system and placed 2nd in the women’s club single. With encouragement from friends, she decided to try out for the national team in 1987. She met Paul Carabillo through the Simsbury Boathouse and together they developed a training plan.

Her first gold medal was in 1988, World Rowing Championships in Milan, Italy. In 1989, at the World Championships in Bled, Slovenia, she won the gold in the lightweight single and double with C.B. Sands. She is the first women and 2nd American to win 2 golds in 2 different events at a World Championship Regatta. The previous American to win 2 golds at a World Championship Regatta was John Kelly in 1920, father of actress Grace Kelly.

Kris was named Female athlete of the year by the USRowing Association in 1989. After competing at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Kris went on to complete fellowship training at the University of Michigan in sports medicine. She has been a doctor for several Olympic teams as well as, most recently, the US team that competed in the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida. She currently practices Family Medicine as part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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In 2002 Williams College named a Vespoli 8 after Kris Karlson. The boat was retired in 2007 and sold to Farmington Valley Rowing Association. Since that time, the Kris has competed in many races. Most recently her biggest successes have been at the 2012 Masters Nationals in Worcester, MA, where she took a bronze in Women’s Club A 8+ and Women’s Open A8+, and competing as part of the Women’s Club 8+ in the 2016 Head of the Charles. The Kris 8+ is one of FVRA’s most used boats in clinics, practices and racing and we hope to keep it that way for many years to come.






  6. Lewis, Linda, Water’s Edge, Women Who Push the Limits in Rowing, Kayaking & Canoeing. 1992, pp 87-114.