Five finalists have been selected for the 2013 Thomas Keller Medal. They are Iztok Cop, Drew Ginn, Ekaterina Karsten, Katherine Grainger and Eskild Ebbesen.
This is the most prestigious award in rowing and is in recognition of an exceptional international rowing career, the ‘type’ of career, technical mastery of the sport, sportsmanship and the ‘legendary’ aspect of the athlete.
Following public nominations the finalists were decided by the FISA council and commission members. The award winner will then be chosen by the Thomas Keller Medal committee.
• Iztok Cop (Slovenia)
Slovenian sporting legend, Iztok Cop had a career that spanned more than two decades and included six Olympic Games. Cop’s success began as a junior when he rowed for Yugoslavia. Cop then medalled as a 19-year-old at the World Rowing Championships. A year later he became the first Olympic medallist for the newly-independent Slovenia in the men’s pair.
At the next Olympics, in 1996, Cop raced the men’s single sculls finishing fourth. He then teamed up with Luka Spik and together they became Olympic Champions in the men’s double sculls at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This partnership continued through the next three Olympic Games with Cop adding silver and bronze to his Olympic collection. Cop has been described as the glue amongst his fellow athletes from around the world and also as a great role model for young Slovenian rowers.
• Drew Ginn (Australia)
Drew Ginn shot to fame as part of Australia’s celebrated Oarsome Foursome when they won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Following this Ginn went on to help Australia win medals in the eight, coxed four and pair. At the 1999 World Rowing Championships Ginn, along with partner James Tomkins, became World Champions in the pair setting themselves up as favourites for the 2000 Olympics. A back injury forced Ginn out of the boat and out of rowing at the last minute. But Ginn’s tenacity and perseverance saw him back on form two years later and in 2003 he again was a World Champion. Ginn followed this up with Olympic gold in Athens.
After a post-Olympic break, Ginn returned with new partner, Duncan Free and together they won the 2006 and 2007 World Rowing Championships. Leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games Ginn again suffered back problems. That didn’t stop him and he won another Olympic Champion title.
A back operation and a break followed the Beijing Olympics with Ginn declaring he would make a comeback in the men’s four. The four took on the mighty British four to finish with silver at the London Olympic Games.
Ginn is well-known for his willingness to share his rowing ‘secrets’ as well as his outstanding rowing technique. Ginn is regularly used as an example of the ideal way to row.
• Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus)
The name Ekaterina Karsten is synonymous with the women’s single sculls. Throughout her career, which has spanned every Olympic Games between 1992 and 2012, this great sculler has seen success in a number of events. Karsten’s rowing career began in 1990 when she won the junior women’s single as part of the Soviet Union. A year later Karsten was propelled to the senior team taking bronze in the women’s double sculls at the 1991 World Rowing Championships. As a 20-year-old Karsten won her first Olympic medal as a member of the women’s quadruple sculls in Barcelona.
Four years later Karsten had moved back into the single and became an Olympic Champion and a sports star for Belarus. Karsten then began a winning streak in the single that saw her win all but one international race through to another Olympic Champion title at the 2000 Olympics.
Karsten continued in the single and readily jumped into other sculling boats for Belarus. Back in the single at the 2004 Olympic Games, Karsten added silver to her collection and then bronze at the Beijing Olympics. In between Karsten picked up a number of World Champion titles.
• Katherine Grainger (Great Britain)
The recent success of women’s rowing in Great Britain goes hand-in-hand with Katherine Grainger – the nation’s most successful female rower of all time. Grainger came into the sport as a university student and it was not long before success came her way. In 1997 she was part of the first British women’s eight to win a World Championship medal. Moving into the women’s quadruple sculls Grainger’s crew picked up silver at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Thus began a string of Olympic silvers that served as motivation for Grainger to pursue the elusive Olympic gold. In Athens the silver was in the women’s pair, followed by silver in the quad at the Beijing Olympics.
Grainger’s determination paid off and at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Grainger struck gold in the women’s double sculls (with Anna Watkins). This gold came on the back of an unbroken winning streak that began in 2010.
Through her rowing career Grainger has demonstrated her ability to swap successfully between different disciplines including times in the single with a World Championship medal in this discipline.
• Eskild Ebbesen (Denmark)
Since lightweight rowing was introduced to the Olympic Games programme in 1996, Eskild Ebbesen has been there – and medalled every time. This has made him the best Danish Olympian ever and the only Danish athlete to have won medals at five consecutive Olympics. Known for his high-rating and explosive power, Ebbesen has been at the forefront of Danish rowing for over two decades and he has helped develop many of the up-and-coming rowers on the Danish team.
Ebbesen is also known for his success on the indoor rowing machine clocking World Records at various times.
He sits in the number one position for the 2012 World Rowing Top Male Rowers and is the best lightweight Olympian ever.
The winner of the Thomas Keller Medal will receive an 18-carat gold medal. This year’s medal will be presented at the Nation’s Dinner of the 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. It will be bestowed by Dominik Keller, the son of FISA’s former president Thomas Keller, and Denis Oswald, president of FISA.
Former winners include Vaclav Chalupa (CZE), James Tomkins (AUS) and Kathrin Boron (GER). A full list of winners can be found here.
Article courtesy of worldrowing.com