One of New Zealand’s most successful rowers, Grace Prendergast (Olympian 1335), announced that she would be stepping away from high performance rowing in October.

I have huge respect and administration 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. Kerri Williams

The two-time Olympian leaves holding 15 national premier titles, five world championship titles and two Olympic medals (gold and silver).

Reflecting on her career, Prendergast says, “Rowing has shaped me into the person I am today, and I never could have imagined the impact 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 I 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. I leave still loving the sport, the team, and everything they have taught me.”

Prendergast began her rowing career in Christchurch with 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, and she made her senior debut in the women’s eight at the 2013 World Rowing Championships.

In 2014 Prendergast competed across multiple boat classes and levels. The first was at Rowing World Cup 3 in Lucerne, where she and Kerri Williams (née Gowler) made their debut appearance in the women’s pair. This outing gave a glimpse of what was to come: the duo finished in second place, just two seconds behind the dominant Great Britain crew of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover. From there Prendergast and Williams went on to the World Rowing Under 23 Championships where they were crowned Under 23 World Champions. They rounded off the season at the World Rowing Senior Championships in the women’s four where, alongside Kelsey Campbell (Bevan) and Kayla Pratt, they won gold and set a world best time that remains unbeaten.

In 2015 Prendergast 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. She walked away with two silver medals and gained Olympic qualification in both events. The following year she helped make 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.

Since then Prendergast has been one of the most dominant sweep rowers on the international scene. She and teammate Kerri Williams have been an almost unbeatable combination in the women’s pair field, culminating in an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At the same time, they were a vital part of the women’s eight that won a silver medal.

When asked about their time rowing together, Williams says, “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, as well as excelling on the water Prendergast has completed a Bachelor of Business Studies and Master of Business Studies through Massey University. Following the Tokyo Olympics, she completed a Master of Philosophy in planning, growth and regeneration at Cambridge University, while also winning the prestigious Cambridge– Oxford Boat Race. In doing so, Prendergast became one of only a handful of people to have won the Boat Race, an Olympic gold and a World Championship gold.

In 2022 Prendergast and Williams combined for what would be their final international season in the women’s pair. True to form, the duo won gold at the 2022 World Rowing Championships in Račice, Czech Republic, in September. Mike Rodger coached the crew for their final season and describes Prendergast as a talented and 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 medallist Hamish Bond also expressed his admiration: “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, Prendergast, along with Rowing NZ team members Kerri Williams and Emma Twigg, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to sport.

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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. Hamish Bond

World Rowing Championships Timeline