New Zealand's double Olympic champion twins Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl have been awarded rowing's most prestigious award, the Thomas Keller Medal.

The medal is awarded annually for an outstanding career in the sport.

The sisters, formerly Evers-Swindell, won the double sculling gold medal at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Games. They retired the following year.

They also won three world championship gold medals in the double scull, and three silvers, including one in the quad early in their career in 2001.

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It is the first time the medal has been awarded to New Zealand rowers and the first time since 1999 it has gone to more than one person.

The sisters won the award ahead of other finalists including Americans Erin Cafaro and Caryn Davies, Denmark's Thomas Ebert and British rower Greg Searle.

They will receive the award next weekend during the second World Cup regatta of the year in Lucerne.

The medal is named after the late president of the international rowing body Fisa. It was first awarded in 1990, the year after Keller's death. Last year's award went to Slovenian Olympic champion Iztok Cop.