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Kirsten Brown, 43, only black member of US kayak team

WASHINGTON -- Kirsten Venetta Brown, a former world-class whitewater kayaker and a member of the US national team, died Oct. 21 of breast cancer at her home in Washington. She was 43.

Ms. Brown, a native of Washington , began kayaking as a child during summer camp and pursued the sport full time from 1989 to 1996, participating in tournaments around the world. She was the first, and so far the only, African-American member of the national canoe and kayak team.

She narrowly missed becoming a member of the US Olympic team, but she did participate in two world championship competitions and three world cups as a member of the national team. In 1991, she won a bronze medal in the women's team event at the world championships in Yugoslavia. She won a gold medal at the US Olympic Festival in 1994.

Ms. Brown participated in swimming and dance while growing up and was first exposed to kayaking during childhood visits to Valley Mill Camp in Germantown, Md. She quickly excelled at the vigorous outdoor sport and taught at the camp as a teenager. By the time she was in high school, she was a nationally ranked kayaker and was working out with Bill Endicott, who coached the national team from 1977 to 1993.

She reached her athletic peak in 1991, when she was the third-ranked US woman and won a bronze medal at the world championships.

Ms. Brown received a bachelor's degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. She was conscious of her position as the sole African-American in her sport and had written a college thesis on Steve Biko, the black South African antiapartheid activist who died in police custody in 1977.

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