Barbara Kendall took part in her first Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona. In the “lechner” board category, she took her first Olympic title at the end of 10 regattas. This title was already a feat in itself, as it was the first for a female New Zealand athlete in 40 years. It also allowed Barbara to equal her brother Anthony Bruce, himself an Olympic windsurfing champion in 1988 and bronze medallist in 1984 (when it was a demonstration discipline).
At the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, the competitions took place in the “mistral” category. This change in no way affected Barbara’s performance, as she came second in the competition behind Lai Shan Lee of Hong Kong. This silver medal earned her the title of Athlete of the Year in her country, a title awarded to her on two other occasions. For her third Olympic Games, in Sydney, Barbara Kendall took her third medal, this time a bronze, behind Italy’s Alessandra Sensini, Olympic champion, and Germany’s Amelie Lux. On this occasion she became one of the three female athletes with the most medals in sailing, alongside Ukraine’s Ruslana Taran and Alessandra Sensini.
At the age of 36, the Games in Athens marked her fourth Olympic participation. Two poor results in regattas n°3 and n°5 meant that her handicap was too large to be able to take part in the fight for the Olympic title. Despite her three victories over the 11 rounds of the competition, her Games ended with a fifth-place result. In Beijing in 2008, the windsurfer represented her country for the fifth time at the Olympic Games. After a laboured start, the New Zealander moved up the rankings thanks to her regularity. Unfortunately, a 13th and 21st place in regattas 9 and 10 put paid to her medal hopes. Barbara Kendall finished in sixth place.