The award was presented to Jean Maillard of France at the recent World Rowing Awards gala dinner. Maillard attends the CentraleSupelec University in Paris, France and is pursuing a PhD in applied plasma physics. The Filippi Spirit Award is open to university student rowers and Maillard won it ahead of a number of high caliber nominations.

Maillard was surprised himself when he heard the news; “I had looked at the previous years’ winners and at the other finalists and I never imagined that I could actually win. When I found out, I was amazed and extremely happy.”

Maillard began rowing, ‘by accident’. He played football and volleyball growing up, but was injured when he began university. When some friends said they were going to try rowing, Maillard decided to give it a go. The surprise came when he proved to be one of the fastest on the ergometer during selections.

“I was really strong on the erg. I am tall and was fit from the other sports, so it made sense. But I thought, alright I’m pretty good at this, let’s give it a go,” he says.  

Maillard’s natural talent for the sport might have hooked him in the beginning, but he soon fell in love with rowing for another reason.

“There is really something special in rowing. It is about going as far as you can, going beyond your own limits. And through that, the emotions that you experience together with your teammates are extraordinary. I love this sport.”

Once hooked, Maillard became a central figure for the team. As his teammate describes, “He never once let the stress or tension get the better of him. We relied on him throughout the year and during racing to give his best, and he relied on us to do the same.”

Off the water, his contribution to both university and charity are impressive. Maillard is working on technology to recycle CO2 and convert it into biofuel which, according to his professor, will be critical in helping the reduction of carbon emissions, creating a cleaner environment going forward.

In what little time he has left, Maillard is also an avid saxophone player. He began at the age of seven and has not stopped. When getting to university he joined the orchestra and embarked on a trip with their programme ‘musicians without borders.’ The group travelled for six months through developing countries to provide a musical experience to children who otherwise might not have had the opportunity.

“It was an incredibly moving experience,” Maillard says. In the end, he compares music to rowing, highlighting his true passion for both and his ability to share this passion with others. “Music is like rowing. The group is stronger than the individual. At the very base, it is a team sport.”

As the winner of the Filippi Spirit Award, Maillard will receive a Filippi eight racing shell for his rowing club. Maillard says the addition of the Fillipi eight will allow the CentraleSupelec university rowing club to continue to expand and grow in capacity. A recent merger of two universities means they have a new pool of potential rowers and their current capacity limits their ability to interest more students in the sport. Maillard also explains that the award has had a great impact for increased visibility.

“We never imagined that someone from France could win. But the impact goes beyond just us and the university, it is on the entire sport of rowing in France.”

This is the seventh year of the Award and the fourth year under its current title sponsor Filippi.  Previous winners include James Cook (GBR) in 2013, Franz Gravenhorst (GER) in 2014, and Kirsten van Fossen (USA) in 2015, Nils Jakob Hoff (NOR) in 2016, Micheen Thornycroft (ZIM) in 2017, Amidu Saliva (SRI) in 2018.

Filippi Lido S.R.L. (also known as Filippi Boats) is a rowing racing boat manufacturer based in Donorotico, Italy. Since 1980 Filippi has produced top Olympic-class rowing boats. They are renowned for design, top-quality materials and state-of-the-art technology combined with passion and core values that underpin their work. For more information visit here, or Facebook @Filippiboats

For more information on the Filippi Spirit Award