Rowing: Olympic, world champion Grace Prendergast retires from international career

Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler take gold at Tokyo Olympics
Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler take gold at Tokyo Olympics. Photo credit: Photosport

Five-time world champion and Tokyo Olympic gold-medallist Grace Prendergast has announced her retirement from international rowing.

Prendergast, 30, and Kerri Williams (formerly Gowler) have dominated women's pair in recent years, claiming their first world title in 2017 and retaining their crown at Racice, Czech Republic, last month.

Both were awarded Member of the NZ Order of Merit in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours, after taking at last year's Tokyo Olympics, where they also won silver with the Kiwi women's eight.

After Tokyo, she also attended Cambridge University, where she contributed to a winning crew in the prestigious Cambridge-Oxford boat race, while completing a Masters of Philosophy in Planning, Growth and Regeneration.

Prendergast also has a Bachelor of Business Studies and Master of Business Studies through Massey University.

"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," she said. "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 Prendergast and Kerri Williams celebrate their last world title
Grace Prendergast and Kerri Williams celebrate their last world title. Photo credit: Photosport

Prendergast and Williams won their first world title together in 2014, as part of a coxless four that still hold the world best time for their event. They reached the pinnacle of their combined careers at the 2019 championships at Ottensheim, Austria, where they won their specialty, before also helping the eight to victory the next day.

"I am so proud of everything Grace and I have achieved together," said Williams. "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."