O'Donoghue first heard about the Parmigiani Spirit Award when he read about last year's winner, James Cook. "I was impressed with his dedication to the sport, as well as his desire to use his time to serve others," says O'Donoghue who, unbeknown to him, was then nominated by his coach and teammates. 

A Yale University mechanical engineering student, O'Donoghue was elected by his peers to be captain of the Yale lightweight men's crew in 2014. He is described by his crew as leading by example. He does this by setting high standards and challenging the team to perform at their best. O'Donoghue would demonstrate this by always being fully committed to his training. His dedication earned him the Shedd-Crossman Award in 2014 which goes to the most valuable oarsman. 

"He is always the first one in and the last one out of a practice and puts in extra time with his teammates and with the coaches to make sure everything is operating smoothly for the whole team," described teammate Ilana Usiskin.

This dedication has taken O'Donoghue into the elite level of rowing and he has already represented the United States at the under-23 level two years running.

During the rowing off-season O'Donoghue took the initiative to organise team-oriented practices showing is dedication to the team as a whole.

Matthew O'Donoghue (USA), Parmigiani Spirit Award Finalist with family. ©Mathhew O'Donoghue © FISA

Matthew O'Donoghue (USA), Parmigiani Spirit Award Finalist with family. ©Mathhew O'Donoghue

In between rowing and academic studies O'Donoghue has been part of the Big brothers/Big sisters programme, mentoring a nine-year-old boy called Marquis. O'Donoghue would engage Marquis in athletics, academics and also teach him how to relate to his peers. "In his quiet style, Matt is helping in a way that is small demographically, but so very meaningful for Marquis and his family," said O'Donoghue's coach Andrew Card. "A true part of his education at Yale and he found it on his own."

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.