Carie Graves Female Athlete of the Year Award

Carie Graves, the stroke of the Red Rose Crew.

24 June 2022

In a statement, USRowing’s Board of Directors has announced that the organization will be renaming its Female Athlete of the Year Award in honor of the late Carie Graves, who passed away on 19 December 2021.

The 2022 Carie Graves Female Athlete of the Year Award will be selected by the athletes on this year’s senior national team following the 2022 World Rowing Championships scheduled for September in Racice, Czech Republic.

“As a female rower in the U.S., you knew who Carie Graves was even if you’d never met her,” said Taylor Ritzel, female athlete representative on the USRowing Board of Directors and 2012 Olympic gold medalist. “Her grit, fearlessness, and leadership were attributes I remember learning about even as I was starting the sport. Not only did she pave the way for decades of strong American female rowers to follow, but her commitment to her team and bettering the sport directly impacted me and my teammates’ opportunities in rowing. By naming the Female Athlete of the Year award after Carie, the current team will not only vote for the female rower who leads in performance on and off the water, but they also will choose the woman who best embodies Carie’s ethos and character, someone who leaves an incredibly positive impact on the team and sport.”

A University of Wisconsin undergraduate, Graves won a gold medal in the women’s eight at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and a bronze medal in the eight at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. She also was a member of the 1980 Olympic Team, which was unable to compete due to the boycott of the Olympics in Moscow. That crew won the 1980 Lucerne International Regatta over East Germany, the eventual Olympic champions.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Graves began rowing as a walk-on as a sophomore at Wisconsin in the fall of 1973, and in the spring of 1975, the Badgers had won the women’s national championship. Graves made her first U.S. team in 1975, as stroke of the silver-medal winning eight that would become known as the “Red Rose Crew.” She would win two more world championship silver medals in the women’s eight in 1981 and 1983. The United States Olympic Committee honored her as rowing’s Female Athlete of the Year in both 1981 and 1984.

“There can be no female athlete with more ‘firsts’ in the sport than Carie Graves,” said teammate Carol Brown in a testimonial in support of renaming the award. “She was THE figurehead and hero for everyone who was fortunate to have a chance to be in any of her boats – even just at a selection camp. She remains the iconic example of passion, power, and commitment to every stroke and every teammate. At the same time, she was ever humble and always thinking about the team, not her individual results or status. There will never be another Carie Graves, and it (is) a tremendous and fitting honor to have the award in her name.”

Graves was the head women’s crew coach at Harvard/Radcliffe from 1977 to 1983, then spent 10 years as the head coach of women’s rowing at Northeastern University from 1988 to 1998. In July of 1998, she was hired as the University of Texas women’s rowing head coach. Graves built UT’s rowing program from the ground up, leading the Longhorns to their first-ever NCAA Championship appearance during the 2002-03 season. Graves retired from coaching in 2014.

In addition to renaming the Female Athlete of the Year award, the Board has clarified the criteria for athletes to consider when selecting the award winners. Voted on by the national team athletes each year, the athlete of the year awards will be awarded to the athlete(s) who displayed during the past year the most compelling combination of character, leadership, and performance, while driving forward a positive team culture.

Click here to see the Board memo on the decision to rename the Female Athlete of the Year award after Carie Graves.

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