It is not long now until World Rowing will announce the winner of the 2014 Parmigiani Spirit Award. Each of the four finalists have shown the essence and spirit of rowing and we continue to profile these outstanding individuals.

From Germany, Franz Gravenhorst is currently studying electrical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Rowing has been part of Gravenhorst's life since he was 15 years old. He soon turned it into a key commitment and made the German under-23 squad in the lightweight men's double sculls. Gravenhorst followed this up with a spot on the senior team in 2008, rowing in the lightweight men's quadruple sculls. Since then Gravenhorst has focused on competing for his university rowing team, taking part in many international university competitions. Most recently he collected a number of medals at the European Universities Rowing Championships.

Through university rowing Gravenhorst has taken an active part in the organisation side of rowing. He is responsible for weekly rowing and erg courses and instructs at the Zurich Universities Sports Association as well as runs a yearly rowing camp which is open to all students in Zurich. "It is really rewarding to see the benefits that rowing brings to other people, to their health and fitness and also other areas of their lives," says Gravenhorst.

Franz Gravenhorst (GER) coaching kids to learn to row © FISA


Gravenhorst is working towards a PhD in two projects. One project has the goal to improve the healthcare situation for people with mental disorders by developing monitoring technology. The other project is about measurement tools for rowing technique, using wireless sensors to track the angles of the rowing oar in combination with the movement of the rower.

A high achiever academically, Gravenhorst has earned a number of university awards including; Best Student Paper Award (2014), Siemens Energy Award (2011) and IPP-Prize (2008).

Known for making friends world-wide and an ingrained sense of fairness, Gravenhorst has demonstrated these traits a number of times. One example was when graduating from high school, Gravenhorst was awarded several awards for exceptional performance in different subjects and his social engagement. However, he decided not to accept one of the awards because he was convinced that one of his fellow students had deserved this award more than him. This action inspired other students to follow his example and thus increased the pressure on the jury to reconsider their guidelines to make them fairer.

Rowing friend David Albrect describes Gravenhorst, "For Franz, having skills or knowledge always comes with an obligation to share this knowledge with others and let them benefit from it. Also, he regularly supports rowing beginners to improve their rowing experience by coaching them and also sometimes rowing with them."

This is the second year of the Parmigiani Spirit Award, which was presented to James Cook (GBR) in 2013.

Following the selection of the four finalists, the panel of judges, comprising New Zealand Olympic Champion single sculler Mahe Drysdale, German World Champion and Olympian Lenka Wech, Parmigiani Fleurier CEO Jean-Marc Jacot and FISA President and Olympic Champion Jean-Christophe Rolland will now decide the winner.

The winner of the Award will receive a hand-crafted Parmigiani Fleurier watch and the rowing club of the winner will be presented with a custom-made new Filippi racing eight boat. For rowers in some countries (such as the United States where NCAA regulations apply), the awards will be adjusted to conform with national eligibility regulations.

A video detailing the award can be found here.