Van Fossen  is from the United States but has travelled across the globe and is currently working towards a PhD in engineering at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain.

Van Fossen started rowing at the age of 16 at Moorestown High School, New Jersey, USA, As captain, she led the team to national success and her enthusiasm encouraged students new to rowing to participate. Van Fossen’s drive and strong work ethic continued to propel her within the rowing world. She placed seventh in the World Indoor Rowing Championships in 2008, representing the US National Team in the junior women’s quadruple sculls.

As a part of the Radcliffe Team at Harvard University, Kirsten was elected captain of 55 women and worked with coaches and her co-captain to organise practice sessions and competitions. One of her teammates reflects: "On and off the water, you call others to dig deeper and find strength and abilities they did not even know they possessed." Van Fossen was that person.

Her coach at the University of Cambridge, Rob Baker told World Rowing that she is a key member and one of the strongest physically on the team. But, adds Baker, it was her ability to inspire those around her that changed the whole group performance. They listened to her and followed her calm leadership and Baker believes that Van Fossen’s encouragement and support helped lead the team to victory earlier this year.  

Kirsten Van Fossen (left) rowing for Cambridge University. © Chris Down

Van Fossen’s achievements are not limited to rowing. Her academic career reflects Van Fossen's determination and great self-discipline. In high school, she received exceptionally high scores and was accepted at Harvard University, where she majored in engineering. Aware of the demands on the natural resources by the world’s ever increasing population and wanting to see science in action and applied in places where it was needed the most, Van Fossen focused her thesis on ‘Point of Use Drinking Water Purification.’ She graduated with a Cum Laude in field.

At present, Van Fossen’s academic pursuits have led her to the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, where she is investigating how the food industry can be redesigned to deliver healthy nutrition and improve public health. Besides her studies, Van Fossen is an active participant in the Women in Engineering Forum, and she recently organised a Research Methodology Workshop pursuing the intersection of technology, policy and management.

Our final Parmigiani Spirit Award finalist attends Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Tristan Wentworth began rowing in 2008 in high school and continued rowing when he started university in 2011.

Upon arriving at Rhodes University, Wentworth immediately looked for an opportunity to give back. He joined an outreach programme through the Rhodes rowing club that donated food and gave lessons to the underprivileged members of the local rowing club. After being exposed to coaching, Wentworth decided he wanted to be more involved. The club was struggling to hire coaches, so for two years Wentworth helped coach the novice team.  His teammate Jedrick Theron estimates that his efforts have exposed more than 200 students to the sport.

“I feel that Tristan truly epitomises what it means to be part of a university sports team and live as a scholar athlete,” Theron says.

Not only has Wentworth coached others to success, he has seen success in rowing on an international level. He was selected to be a part of the South African men’s four at the Universiade (World University Championships) in Chungju, Korea. 

Tristan Wentworth with his team at the 2015 Universiade in Chungju, Korea. © Nick Greeff

Throughout this time Wentworth has maintained a balance between his rowing career and his studies. Working towards a Postgraduate Certification in Education, Wentworth received honours in his Information Systems undergraduate degree that he finished in 2014. His current degree will allow Wentworth to teach senior students in business studies and maths.

Wentworth is currently completing his teaching practical for his course, teaching at an underprivileged school in a local township. “It has been hectic and long days, especially when trying to train a couple hours at the same time, but it has been an amazing experience and extremely rewarding,” Wentworth says.

In every aspect of his life, Wentworth has shown that teaching, sharing and giving back are his core values. Whether it is rowing, maths, business or another subject, he is ready and willing to share his knowledge and encourage others to learn.