The winners of the 2023 World Rowing Awards have been revealed. Once again Row360 were asked to film and produce the Awards, this year it was hosted at the recently renovated River and Rowing Museum, in Henley-on-Thames, Great Britain. World Rowing revealed the winners via a virtual ceremony on their YouTube channel, which can be found at the end of this article.
Each year six awards are presented to those who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in rowing. Determining a winner is no easier task especially in the wake of such a stellar season, at the senior level there were eight new world best times, seven of which were set in Para boat classes. Nominees for the four coach and crew of the year awards were initially drawn from a public nomination and then revised by a panel, who create shortlists and recommended winners. The final decision rests with World Rowing’s Executive Committee. So without further-ado, here are the winners.
World Rowing Coach of the Year
Francesco Fossi is the coach of the Dutch men’s double sculls and men’s quadruple sculls, both of whom finished the 2023 season as world champions. Coach Fossi is a former Italian sculler, European champion and two-time Olympian, he finished fourth in the men’s double at Rio 2016 before embarking on his coaching career.
After receiving the 2023 World Rowing Coach of the Year award Fossi said: “Thank you for the award, it is an honour and confirms the amazing job we did last year. … I’m lucky to have such an amazing team of rowers. Physically and mentally they are tough, ready to fight for every result and reach their best performance. We are where we want to be, we’re ready for next year. I’m curious to see what the Olympics brings.”
The Dutch glut of championship-winning performances saw two of their coaches nominated for this award, the other being Michelle Darvill who won this award in 2021 after coaching Canada women’s eight to victory in Tokyo. Great Britain’s Darren Whiter, Norway’s Johnan Lidberg and Switzerland’s Ian Wright were also nominees.
Nikki Ayers and Jed Altschwager
World Rowing Para Crew of the Year
Australia’s Nikki Ayers and Jed Altschwager have been unstoppable in this field since joining forces at the start of the year. Not only are they the 2023 World Rowing Champions in the PR3 Mix2x, but they also broke the World Best Time not once but twice this season, beating the previous time from 2017 by over 20 seconds.
“It is a huge honour to take this award,” said Altschwager, before thanking, “our friends and family for their continued support, it’s been amazing.” Ayers added: “We’re looking forward to the season ahead and the build up to the Paris 2024 Paralympics.”
They faced tough competition, not only on the water but from the nominee list which included two previous winners of this award: Norway’s Birgit Skarstein and Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi. Great Britain’s newlook PR2 Mix2x were also nominated.
This year Para rowing made its debut on the legendary Rotsee in Lucerne, Swtizerland, which will host the Final Olympic and Paralympic Qualification regatta together for the first time in 2024. Para rowing was also featured as an inclusion event at the 2023 World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Barletta.
Distinguished Service to International Rowing
The Distinguished Service to International Rowing Award is presented annually to someone who has had a long and lasting impact on the sport of rowing internationally at all levels. This year’s recipient, Svetla Otzetova, has been part of the international rowing family for over 55 years.
“I was sixteen years old,” said Otzetova, describing her inauspicious start in rowing. “The first time I sat in a boat I totally hated it! My first experience of a rowing competition was a complete disaster, the whole crew was shouting at me because I rowed so badly. But we won and I have loved rowing ever since.”
A two time Olympian, Svetla saw the birth of women’s rowing at the 1976 Montreal Games, in Quebec, Canada, where she won gold in the women’s double sculls. She was only the third woman to serve in the International Olympic Committee, and was the president of the Bulgarian Rowing Federation until 2012.
World, Olympic and Paralympic regatta courses spanning the globe bear her mark. For over four decades Svetla’s experience in rowing and architecture has allowed her to be involved in the design of the world’s most prestigious rowing and canoeing regatta courses.
Otzetova concluded her acceptance speech with exemplary style: “I would like to share what Thor Nilsen wrote as a dedication to me, on the first page of his book: ‘Your work deserves a book of itself, my work will disappear with me, your constructions will last for generations.’ Thankyou for the work, it is an honour.”
Emily Craig and Imogen Grant
Women’s Crew of the Year
Great Britain’s Tokyo Olympians Emily Craig and Imogen Grant are the 2023 World Rowing Champions in the lightweight women’s double sculls, retaining their title from 2022. They were unbeaten in the 2023 season and set a new World Best Time. On receiving the award they thanked their coach Darren Whiter and acknowledged the wider team effort.
“It is very much a three-man-slash-woman operation and we certainly wouldn’t have got through the aftermath of Tokyo, or had such a successful two years since, without him,” said Grant. Craig continued: “And thanks to the weights coaches, physios and the support staff who don’t always get to travel to the regattas. They’re why we’re stronger, fitter and still in one piece.”
The British duo were chosen over the Romanian women’s eight and Dutch single sculler, Karolien Florijn. One expects at least one of these crews will reappear on future nominee lists, especially after Paris.
Oliver Zeidler, Germany
Men’s Crew of the Year
Olli Zeidler is the 2023 World Rowing Champion in the men’s single sculls, his third world title in this boat class. In 2023, he also completed the World Rowing Cup ‘hat trick’, winning all three World Cups in the same boat class in the same year.
“I may be alone in the boat, but the truth is there’s a dedicated team of supporters, mentors and loved ones who are part of my journey,” said Zeidler. “Winning this award is a recognition of my dad and coach, who made me the rower I am today, my family who have supported me always, who have made me the person I am today; but also the rowing community who have made me one of their own.”
“I am reminded of the importance of sportsmanship, love, dedication and the shared values that make rowing such a beautiful sport for all of us. Thankyou for all of those who have supported me throughout my rowing career, I am grateful to each and every one of you.”
The last, and until now only, German winner of this award was the Deutschland Achter who won in 2017. Zeidler is the first German sculler to win and he was chosen ahead of the other nominees: Great Britain’s men’s four and Switzerland’s men’s pair. Roman Roeoesli and Andrin Gulich would have been the first Swiss men’s crew to win this award. Swiss sculler Jeanine Gmelin won the Women’s Crew of the Year award in 2017.
Caryn Davies, USA
2023 Thomas Keller Medal
Caryn Davies is a three time Olympic medallist in the women’s eight, and four time world champion at the senior level. She had an international career spanning 20 years, making her debut at the 1999 Junior World Rowing Championships and culminating at the 2019 Worlds in Linz, Austria.
“Even though I have retired from competition I know the work of being a good teammate isn’t done,” said Davies. “For my part I know my debt is far from repaid, just as Thomi Keller’s most important contribution to this sport of rowing came after he retired from competition, I intend to earn this honour, to earn his namesake award through my future actions and attitude.”
The Thomas Keller medal is the highest award in rowing. It is presented to a competitor who has had a long and successful rowing career and made an outstanding contribution as a competitor and sports personality. Previous winners include Thomas Lange, Katherine Grainger, Elisabeta Lipa and Marnie McBean.
Davies was a three-time Thomas Keller Medal nominee before winning, and she was a member of the 2008 World Rowing Crew of the Year.