Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast raced together in the women’s eight at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Then heading into this Olympic cycle, they have solidified their place in the women’s pair and now have an impressive medal haul.

Gowler and Prendergast were recognised as the 2019 World Rowing Women’s Crew of the year award after competing and winning in both the women’s pair and the women’s eight at the 2019 World Rowing Championships. In the pair in 2019, the duo won gold at the second World Rowing Cup, silver at the third World Rowing Cup and gold at the World Rowing Championships. They capped it off with another gold at the third World Rowing Cup in the women’s eight and a second World Championship title in the women’s eight.

“It’s very special to win the Award, but a bit of a surprise,” Prendergast says.  “It’s hard to separate one winner from another. To be singled out was really special and a huge honour. When you look at the previous winners, we’ll be proud to have this for rest of our lives.”

Gowler and Prendergast have been rowing together since 2013. They have one of those special rowing clicks that is essential to success in the pair.  

“We are still learning things about each other and we find out new things every season. We are quite different, but it works well in a pair. I think it’s one of the reasons for our success,” says Prendergast. “Kerri is able to drive it, she is more fiery.  And I do the opposite. It gives us a really good balance.”

In 2019, they proved that their talent goes beyond the pair, by winning a second title in the women’s eight. This feat is particularly impressive considering the vastly different nature of the two boats.

“I can’t really compare them,” Gowler says. “The pair is more technical and you have to work together a lot. The race is also slower. But I also enjoy the eight, it is so intense and fast. And you have to work together with all eight girls. It’s nice to go from the pair to the eight and have Caleb (coxswain Caleb Shepherd) telling you what to do, although the coxswain might wear off a little bit,” she says laughing.  

Gowler and Prendergast are now sitting in the middle of the summer season and the New Zealand team trials. They were unable to say exactly what 2020 will look like, but were positive about the prospects.

“We’ll have to wait to the end of trials. Summer has gone well and the squad is looking positive. Regardless of where we are, it will be a good year,” says Prendergast.

“The 2020 season, it’s an Olympic year so everyone steps up a lot. We’re working really hard here in New Zealand to find more speed and get technically better. But everyone is working as hard as they can. So it’s about ticking everything off and trying to give yourself best opportunity,” Gowler says.

Going into 2020, Gowler and Prendergast have the advantage of being on top. They can also rely on their training environment, one of their keys to success.

“It just comes through training and hard work. For us it’s just the more you put in the more you get out. And looking at the big picture, not stressing about small things,” says Prendergast. “Hopefully if you do that, it will give you the result you want. And hopefully you enjoy it along the way.

“What I really enjoy about rowing is that the harder you work, the better you go. Rowing rewards work ethic.”