An experienced coxswain, van den Broecke first won international gold at the 2010 World Rowing Junior Championships as part of the women’s eight. In 2011 she joined the successful British LTA mixed coxed four, coxing it to gold at that year’s World Rowing Championships and again at the Paralympic Games in 2012.

A member of University College at Durham University in north east England, van den Broecke has been working on a Bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics. “Lily has managed to balance her academic studies with intensive and time-consuming sports training, and in both areas she has done very well indeed,” says Eva Schumacher-Reid, vice-master and senior tutor at University College. “In sports, beyond winning a gold medal in rowing at the London Paralympics, she has given a lot back into the community with talks and participating in events all over Britain, but also to College in particular. Lily's ethos of being a member and supportive of a community, to fight the odds, to achieve outstanding results, have made her not only a very popular and much admired member of the College but also a role-model for all our students,” adds Schumacher-Reid.

In addition to studying and training, van den Broecke actively volunteered to help the homeless in her community. As described by two fellow athletes at Durham University Boat Club, James Styles and Henriette Ringleb: “Together with fellow college students, she set up and ran the homeless division of Castle Community Action which has provided much-needed support for disadvantaged members of the local community. Through her efforts she has enabled over 20 students from a college of a few hundred to volunteer regularly at a local cafe for the homeless, inspiring them to act inclusive of all members of society no matter how bad their situation.”

Lily van den Broecke, 2014 Parmigiani Spirit Award finalist © Hopkins © FISA

Succeeding in reducing food wastage was also one of van den Broecke’s accomplishments, as Styles and Ringleb go on to explain: “Setting up end-of-term food banks to enable students to donate their unused food has been a resounding success in simultaneously reducing food wastage and helping support Durham's homeless. Through her hard work in partnering with other organisations, this scheme is now being rolled out university-wide.”

When van den Broecke learned that she was a finalist for the Parmigiani Spirit Award she said: “It was a genuine pleasure to hear I'd been shortlisted. I think people underestimate the power of being part of a university team compared to a national team which gets to compete at events such as London 2012. Therefore it was a real honour.

"I strongly believe that an award recognising the place of rowing at university actively encourages students to continue doing what they love amidst difficult deadlines and high-intensity training. Such confidence bestowed on students is a fantastic way to allow rowing and its participants to flourish at university level.”

Van den Broecke recently obtained her degree and began working for a company called JustGiving. “It's a privilege to be working for an organisation whose morals align with my own and to be in the forefront of technological innovation in the third sector.”

The winner of the Parmigiani Spirit 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.

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.

For more information about the Parmigiani Spirit Award, please click here.