Rowing legend Sir Don Rowlands has passed away.

Sir Don made his name on and off the water with considerable contributions to rowing in New Zealand and internationally, as well as being a successful businessman.

Rowlands was appointed as a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Years Honours list last year and it came just a month after becoming one of the few New Zealanders appointed to the Order of Australia.

Sir Don began what would be a lifelong passion for rowing in the 1940s while working for Mason Brothers Engineering. He competed in the Business House competition for the John Thompson memorial cup, an annual event, and continued his rowing career from there.

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His success and natural talent have been recognised with numerous awards over the years, and having won medals at the Commonwealth Games in the 1950s among other rowing achievements, Rowlands went on to play a leadership role in the sport.

This included helping to organise local events such as the Maadi Cup, as well as international events such as the Olympics, for which he received a bronze medal of the Olympic Order in 1981.