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Double Olympic medalist, Grace Prendergast, excited for next chapter

  • 26 Oct 22

One of New Zealand’s most successful rowers, Grace Prendergast (Olympian 1335), has today announced she will be stepping away from high performance rowing. The two-time Olympian leaves rowing after an astonishing career; holding 15 National Premier titles, five World Championship titles, and two Olympic medals (gold and silver).

Grace, when reflecting on her career said “Rowing has shaped me into the person I am today and I never could have imagined the impact that it would have on my life. I achieved more than I ever thought I was capable of and although I’ll miss everything that rowing has given me, I feel l have fulfilled my dreams and am proud of the career I have had. I’m fortunate to have so many amazing memories to look back on and celebrate, but it is the people who will stand out the most. I owe so much to so many people and leave still loving the sport, the team, and everything that it has taught me”.

Grace began her rowing career in Christchurch, rowing for Villa Maria College and Avon Rowing Club. She represented New Zealand for the first time at the 2010 World Rowing Junior Championships in the coxless four, winning gold with teammates Eve Macfarlane, Jenny Storey and Bea Heaphy-Hall. In 2012 Grace was part of the Under 23 women’s four, before making her senior debut in the women’s eight at the 2013 World Rowing Championships.

2014 saw Grace compete across multiple boat classes and levels. Firstly at Rowing World Cup 3 in Lucerne, where Kerri Williams (Gowler) and Grace made their debut appearance in the women’s pair. This outing gave a glimpse of what was to come, with the duo finishing in second place, just 2 seconds behind the dominant Great Britain crew of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover. From here Grace and Kerri went on to the Under 23 Rowing World Championships where they were crowned Under 23 World Champions. The 2014 season was rounded off at the Senior World Rowing Championships in the women’s four, where Grace, alongside Kerri Williams (Gowler), Kelsey Campbell (Bevan) and Kayla Pratt won gold and set a World Best Time that remains unbeaten.

In 2015 Grace cemented herself as an integral part of the New Zealand women’s sweep squad, rowing in both the women’s pair and the women’s eight at the World Rowing Championships, walking away with two silver medals and gaining Olympic qualification in both events. The following year saw Grace become part of history when she was selected into the first ever women’s eight to compete at an Olympic Games. The crew finished 4th in an extremely tight field at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

From 2017 through to today, Grace has been one of the most dominant sweep rowers on the international scene. With teammate Kerri Williams, the pair have been an almost unbeatable combination in the women's pair field that culminated in an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, all while being a vital part of the women’s eight which also won a silver medal at the Tokyo Games.

When asked about their time rowing together, teammate Kerri Williams said “I am so proud of everything Grace and I have achieved together. I feel so fortunate to have been on this incredible journey with her where we achieved more than I could have ever imagined. I have huge respect and admiration for Grace as a friend and an athlete. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for such a strong, driven, kind and caring woman”.

Throughout her time in the Rowing NZ team, Grace has not only excelled on the water, but completed a Bachelor of Business Studies and Master of Business Studies through Massey University, and following the Tokyo Olympics has completed a Masters of Philosophy in Planning, Growth and Regeneration at Cambridge University, while also winning the prestigious Cambridge – Oxford Boat Race. In doing so, Grace became one of only a handful of people to win the Boat Race, an Olympic Gold and World Championship Gold.

In 2022 Grace and Kerri combined for what would be their final international season in the women’s pair where, true to form, the duo won gold at the 2022 World Rowing Championships in Racice, Czech Republic, in September. Mike Rodger coached the crew for their final season and has described Grace as “talented, an amazing person, and an all-round leader. I feel so privileged to have been a small part of Grace’s rowing career and I look forward to seeing her next chapter”.

Triple Olympic Gold medalists, Hamish Bond, also expressed his admiration for Grace - “Through her time in the pair and the women's eight, Grace became a standard bearer for other athletes and crews within Rowing New Zealand. She led with her actions and consistency, and it was gratifying to pass the moniker of 'Kiwi Pair' to her and Kerri with their success at the Tokyo Olympics”

In June 2022, Grace, along with NZ Rowing team members Kerri Williams and Emma Twigg, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to sport.

Between now and 3 November, all media enquiries and interview requests relating to High Performance should be directed to info@rowingnz.kiwi