9 June 2022
By Göran R Buckhorn
Three New Zealand rowing gold medallists at the Tokyo Games were recognised in Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours.
For service to rowing, Emma Twigg, Kerri Williams and Grace Prendergast were made Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Emma Twigg won the Olympic gold medal in the single sculls and Kerri Williams (nee Gowler) and Grace Prendergast became Olympic champions in the pair in Tokyo.
In Twigg’s 20-year-long rowing career, the Olympic gold medal in the single sculls has evaded her twice, in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio when she ended up in fourth place. (In 2008, in Beijing, she placed 11th.) Twigg became the world champion in the boat class in 2014 when she was named World Rowing Female Rower of the Year. She had previously taken the world title as a junior and U23 sculler. Twigg is an active advocate for LGBTQIA+ athletes.
“I was a little bit surprised. It’s one of those ones you get in your email inbox and think is this a joke? It’s a real honour to be on a list with a lot of greats,” Twigg told the New Zealand media. “It’s been a huge year. It’s been pretty exceptional kicking off with the gold in Tokyo and then finding out Charlotte [Twigg’s wife] was pregnant not long after. We’re happily settling into lives as mums and can’t complain.”
Later this month, Twigg is heading for Europe to compete in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, a cup she has won twice, in 2009 and 2019, and then a World Cup regatta where she is going to row in a double sculls before going back to the single sculls at the World Championships, which will take place in Račice, Czech Republic, on 18-25 September.
Twigg is not ruling out competing at the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, according to media in New Zealand.
Kerri Williams and Grace Prendergast became the third female Kiwi crew to win an Olympic gold medal in rowing when they took the gold in the pair at the Tokyo Games last year. They also rowed in the NZ eight, taking the Olympic silver medal.
They have been racing together in the pair since 2014 and have won four world titles in the class.
Prendergast said the honour “came out of the blue. You never really think of these things when you’re trying to achieve your specific goal but then all these things that follow on from it probably make you realise how special it was. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to let all the moments sink in, so it’s pretty amazing.”
Prendergast studied for a master’s in philosophy at Queens’ College in Cambridge, England, this spring and rowed in the winning women’s Light Blue Boat at the Boat Race, when the race came back to the Thames in London.