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Ruby Tew reflects on her rowing career, and looks forward to the future

  • 13 May 22

Ruby Tew began rowing for Queen Margaret College and Star Boating Club in Wellington in 2008 at the age of 14.

An international breakthrough came in 2012 at the World Rowing Junior Championships, where she won bronze in Bulgaria with the junior quad sculls.It was in sweeping, however, that Ruby really made an impression, and in 2015 she was selected for the elite women’s eight. The boat made history by becoming the first Kiwi women’s eight to qualify for an Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in the process – New Zealand’s first medal in the class. The following year the eight placed a close fourth at the Rio Olympics, winning a string of World Rowing Cup medals during the summer campaign.

Ruby won bronze with the New Zealand eight at the 2017 World Rowing Championships, eventually competing as part of the quadruple sculls during the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s always hard to put a finger on highlights,” she says.

“Probably my very first year in the team; 2015.

"I made a decision after juniors to focus on my studies for a couple of years, so being selected into the elite team the summer after being in Dunedin completing my undergraduate degree was pretty special”

“I was 21 at the time, and we came second at the World Championships in France – the first ever Kiwi women’s eight to qualify for an Olympics - it was an extremely memorable moment for me”

Elite sport is nothing new to Ruby’s family; her father, Steve, was the chief executive officer of New Zealand Rugby from 2008 to 2019.

“I spent my entire childhood running around the back of stadiums, watching rugby games. Seeing how the New Zealand Rugby Union operates as a family - from top management down to the athletes - played a big part in how I approached my own athletic career”

Now studying towards an MBA at the University of Cambridge, Ruby is preparing for a life after professional rowing.

“Navigating the transition out of elite sport always seemed quite daunting, and an MBA felt like the perfect opportunity to expose myself to different people, industries, and experiences that I can leverage towards the next step in my career”.

While at Cambridge University, she competed in the 76th edition of the Women’s Boat Race, where she and the Cambridge crew took a decisive victory over Oxford by more than two lengths, setting a new course record of 18 minutes and 22 seconds in the process.

While the Boat Race saw the end to the rowing chapter of Ruby’s book, there are still plenty of pages to be written.

“It’s a really nice way to leave the sport. It’s been a fantastic sport for me – I’ve loved my entire experience, and this is the perfect way to end it. Rowing has been a place where I’ve met some of my best friends, and I’m extremely grateful for that”.

Ruby has many strings to her bow outside of rowing and her academic studies, including the title of business owner. While rowing for the elite team, she became the founder and managing director of the Athlete Food Company, which she continues to remain involved with.

It’s a business launched with fellow New Zealand international rower Lucy Spoors.

“We decided that we both love to cook, and saw this huge gap in the New Zealand market for catering to young athletes and sports teams,” explains Ruby.

“I want to express how incredibly grateful I am to my family, friends, coaches and crewmates who have all been a huge part of my life - on and off the water - over the last 14 years. There is no way I would have achieved what I have or be in the position I am today without the support and love of those around me. Rowing is the place where I have met some of my best friends and learnt a number of important lessons that I’ll carry into the future. Thank you to everyone for their patience, support and help along the way – you know who you are”

Ruby will be deeply missed by her peers and the wider rowing community.

Georgia Nugent-O'Leary describes Ruby as a determined, loyal, supportive and resilient team player who rain, wind and/or shine could always bring a great vibe to the crew. She is skilled both on and off the water.

Georgia wishes her every success for the future; “It was a privilege to share some of my rowing journey with Ruby, and I wish her every success in her next chapter. I have complete faith that in whatever role or organisation she chooses, she will bring her great set of skills developed through life and through rowing. Whatever team she's on will be fortunate and very grateful to have her - as we have been”.

Eve Macfarlane also shares kind words about her ex-teammate “Congratulations Ruby on an outstanding rowing career! You have achieved so much in your career; leaving the sport as a double Olympian. You are a phenomenal team member who always lifts others up around you. If you’ve been lucky enough to row with Ruby over her career, you’ll know she’s the one to bring the vibe! Not only that, but you’re a wonder woman off the water too. I have loved getting to know Ruby as the teammate, the flatmate, the chef, the academic, the business owner, the financial advisor but above all, the lifelong friend who is the most generous, kind-hearted soul. I’m excited to see where the next chapter of Ruby Tew goes, I think we ought to all watch this space!A big cheers to retirement Ruby! Love you, Eve

Fellow Cambridge University crew member and double Olympian Grace Prendergast’s sentiments echo the personality traits that both Georgia and Eve touched on; “Ruby had so many amazing achievements on the water, but also contributed so much to Rowing NZ and the team off the water. Over her time with RNZ she became a leader and role model, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have shared so many experiences with her; from our Rio Olympic eight to our time here at Cambridge University. The contribution that Ruby had to the RNZ women’s sweep programme was a fundamental reason why we were able to achieve results in 2019 and Tokyo. I know that my journey or achievements would not have been the same without having her as a teammate. Ruby is a special person and has the ability to bring a team together, give people confidence, and work so hard for what she wants. I have loved getting to see her grow as both an athlete and a person, and can’t wait to watch her excel at whatever challenge she takes on next.