Vaclav Chalupa, legendary Czech sculler, awarded rowing's highest distinction
FISA, the International Rowing Federation, is delighted to announce that rowing's highest distinction, the Thomas Keller Medal, will this year be awarded to rowing legend Vaclav Chalupa of the Czech Republic.
The 18-carat gold medal will be awarded this evening, Saturday 26 May, at the "Lucerne Rowing Night", a regatta gala dinner held during the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup II in Switzerland. Also recognised tonight will be the gold medallists from the 1962 World Rowing Championships, the first World Championships ever to be organised fifty years ago in Lucerne.
Chalupa made competitive rowing his life. A veteran of five Olympic Games, Chalupa spent the majority of his 20-year rowing career racing in the men's single sculls. His Olympic silver medal, won at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, his four World Championship silver medals (from 1990, 1991, 1993 and 2009), and three World Championship bronze medals (from 1995, 1998 and 2001) drove him to continually strive for the elusive gold. He would strive for over two decades and during that time became known for his modesty, selflessness and enthusiasm for the sport.
Chalupa was part of some of the most exciting and courageous racing the world of rowing has ever seen. More than that, he set an example of how to behave, both in victory and defeat. Chalupa was the consummate competitor: aggressive on the water, yet a gentleman off it. Though he won many World Cup races, he is the first recipient of the Thomas Keller medal not to have won a gold medal at either the World Rowing Championships or the Olympic Rowing Regatta. And yet, because of that, Chalupa's story - his tenacity and longevity - is all the more compelling.
During his career, no other rower in the Czech Republic could come close to Chalupa. Those years were lean ones for the Czech team and Chalupa had to struggle on his own. But in 2004, Chalupa found that he was no longer alone in Czech rowing. His example had inspired a new generation of elite rowers which included sculler Ondrej Synek: "He was my hero. I remember the first time I raced him in 2001. We were always friends and I learnt a lot from him," says Synek. When Synek won the 2010 World Championship title in the men's single sculls, he said after his race: "My gold medal from Karapiro - that was for him."
In 2008, Chalupa took part in his last Olympic Games in Beijing, China. One year later, he raced at his last World Rowing Championships in in Poznan, Poland, winning his last silver medal. Thomas Lange, one of his greatest competitors, says of him: "He was a gentleman, great friend and a really good person to win the Keller medal."
Vaclav Chalupa will be present in Lucerne, Switzerland, this evening to receive the Thomas Keller Medal from Dominik Keller, son of the late Thomas Keller, FISA's former President.
To view a highlight presentation of Chalupa's rowing career, please click here.
To view the list of previous Thomas Keller Medal winners, please click here.
About the Thomas Keller Medal
The Thomas Keller Medal is the highest distinction in the sport of rowing. It is awarded to recognise an exceptional international rowing career as well as exemplary sportsmanship and legendary aspect.
The award was named after the late President of FISA, Thomas Keller (Thomi). Born in 1924, Keller was elected President of FISA in 1958, at the age of 34 and was then the youngest-ever president of an international sports federation.
Following the 1988 Olympics, Thomi Keller spontaneously awarded the FISA Medal of Honour to Peter-Michael Kolbe and Pertti Karppinen to commemorate one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport and recognising their exceptional talent and sportsmanship. This shaped the idea of the Thomas Keller Medal which was initiated by the Keller family following Thomi's passing in 1989 and was first awarded to the great Norwegian oarsman Alf Hansen in 1990.
Each year, the winner is carefully selected by the Thomas Keller Medal committee, after a broad international nomination process, to ensure that the true values in which Thomi so strongly believed are represented in this award.