Earlier in July, the Thomas Keller Medal committee announced that the 2011 Thomas Keller Medal, rowing’s highest distinction, was awarded to Estonian rower Jüri Jaanson. The 18-carat gold medal was awarded on Sunday, 10 July at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. Dominik Keller, son of the late Thomas Keller, FISA’s former President, was as usual handing out the award.
In the July issue of the FISA Newsletter, it says,
“Throughout his long career Jaanson took part in no less than six Olympic Games. He holds five World Championship medals, including one gold from 1990 in Lake Barrington, Australia and a silver which he won when racing in Finland in 1995. Driven by his urge to win an Olympic medal, Jaanson had to keep rowing until 2004 before reaching the Olympic podium, taking silver first in Athens in the single scull and four years later, in Beijing in 2008 in the men’s double sculls.
It was probably this ambition to be on an Olympic podium which helped him persevere despite the many challenges he had to overcome. He suffers from severe hearing impairment. He also had to overcome the challenges of rowing first under the Soviet system and then the transition to a totally new system following the collapse of the USSR. The resulting loss in funding was only another difficulty which made his perseverance and achievements even more remarkable.
Jaanson retired after competing at the 2009 World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland, 23 years after he first appeared on the international scene at the 1987 World Championships in Denmark. At that time, he had finished fifth behind Thomas Lange, Peter-Michael Kolbe and Pertti Karppinen. He had gone on to win his only World Championship title three years later, in 1990, at Lake Barrington, Australia.
Throughout Jaanson’s extensive rowing career he only ever took four or five months out of the boat. This was usually in the winter time when it was not possible to row. He is a true legend in his country and hero in the sport of rowing, having even been named Estonian Man of the Year in his home country following his 2004 Olympic silver medal in the single scull.”
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”, who was born in 1924 and elected President of FISA in 1958, at the age of 34. He 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.