Olaf Tufte Awarded the Thomas Keller Medal

Olaf Tufte (left) received the Thomas Keller Medal from the hands of Dominik Keller, son of Thomas “Thomi” Keller. Photo: Olaf Tufte’s Instagram.

12 July 2022

By Göran R Buckhorn

This past weekend, in Lucerne, rowing legend Olaf Tufte, 46, who is running his farm in Horten, Norway, was presented with the 2021 Thomas Keller Medal, the highest award in the sport of rowing.

Tufte began rowing at 17 and after 26 years as an elite rower, he retired recently. In his prize cabinet, he has several Olympic and World Championship medals. Tufte won two Olympic gold medals in the single sculls in 2004 and 2008, one Olympic silver medal in the double sculls (with Fredrik Bekken) in 2000 and one bronze in the double sculls (with Kjetil Borch) in 2016.

Olympic champ Olaf Tufte.

Tufte became the world champion in the single sculls in 2001 and 2003, and he took a silver in the boat class in 2005. Tufte and Bekken won a bronze at the Worlds in the double in 1999, and Tufte took a World Championship bronze medal in the single sculls in 2002 and 2015. The latter year, he also took a bronze in the single at the European Championships. He has a heap of World Cup and other international medals.

The Thomas Keller Medal, the highest award in rowing, was first handed out in 1990. Recipient was Alf Hansen, Norway. Photo: Olaf Tufte’s Instagram.

The Thomas Keller Medal prize ceremony was held at the World Rowing headquarters in Lucerne. There, Tufte was joined by his wife, two children and parents. Here is a short video from the event.

The Norwegian wrote on his Instagram account @tufteolaf: “This weekend has been a roller coaster of feelings for the sport I love so much.” He continued, “Seeing rowers get on the water to fight [at the Lucerne Regatta], made it itch in my body. I also wanted to row! So many memories that comes to my mind. Then I get this award which is a symbol of a long, successful and steadfast effort in and outside the boat.

“[This is] proof that you have fought hard, taken care of your friends and competitors in the rowing family, @worldrowing For that is what we are, all who rows. Regardless of nationality, religion or colour. If you row, you’re part of the family.”

Tufte took the opportunity to acknowledge those who have helped throughout his rowing career:

Many thanks to everyone who has supported and guided me through almost 30 years of rowing. So many amazing people who have helped shape me as an athlete and person. This medal is for all of you, proof that you have done a good job with the crazy farmer. It was very great to have this medal presented by Dominik Keller.

Being able to have my immediate family and supporters involved in this. Those who have truly lived in all my madness. I am eternally grateful to you all. Thank you very much for your help, support and guidance.

He wrapped up his statement with some words about the uniqueness that the sport of rowing offers: “The values, friendship and honesty we have in rowing are unique. We become a product of the environment we are a part of. Be the best you, you know how [to be].”

In 2012, HTBS published a memorable article about Olaf Tufte when he and a pair of Norwegian TV personalities were visiting Tim Koch’s club Auriol Kensington Rowing Club in London. The TV celebrities, “Thomas and Harald” (aka Thomas Numme and Harald J. Rønneberg who had no rowing experience whatsoever), rower Bjørn Jostein Singstad and Tufte were to meet an Auriol Kensington club crew for a friendly race on the Thames. Find out how it went in Tim’s article here.

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