The finalists for the 2014 Thomas Keller Medal have been decided. They are Iztok Cop, Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell, Drew Ginn and Katherine Grainger (in alphabetical order).
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 Cop 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.
Caroline (Meyer) and Georgina Evers-Swindell (Earl) (New Zealand)
The identical twins, Caroline and Georgina retired in 2008 as two-time Olympic Champions after 15 years in the sport. At Beijing they successfully defended their title in the women’s double sculls in the closest finish of the Olympic regatta. This was the first time in the history of Olympic rowing that the women’s double sculls title had been successfully defended.
Their success began in 2002 with a World Champion title and, as the Evers-Swindell’s success continued to grow, they inspired a generation of New Zealand high school girls to take up rowing. They added two more World Champion titles along the way making them the dominant force in the women’s double.
The twins’ impact on sport in New Zealand was recognised when they were awarded the Athlete of the Decade in 2010 at New Zealand’s sports awards.
Drew Ginn (Australia)
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 eleventh hour. But Ginn’s tenacity and perseverance saw him back on form two years later and in 2003 he was again 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 ‘right way to row’.
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 stints in the single, with a World Championship medal in this discipline.
The winner of the Thomas Keller Medal will be announced in early July and will receive an 18-carat gold medal. This year’s medal will be presented at the 2014 World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland in July. It will be bestowed by Dominik Keller, the son of FISA’s former president Thomas Keller.
Former winners include Vaclav Chalupa (CZE), James Tomkins (AUS) and Kathrin Boron (GER). Last year’s winner was Eskild Ebbesen (DEN) A full list of winners can be found here.
With thanks to world rowing.com