There was the sweet cap on a fantastic 2019 for Kiwi world champion rowers Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast this weekend.

The pair were named Female Crew of the Year at the 2019 FISA (World Rowing) Awards ceremony in London, which due to training commitments they accepted via video message on Friday night, England time.

In addition, their NZ Rowing mentor Gary Hay was named FISA's Coach of the Year.

After silver in 2018, there was a stunning return to form for the 2017 world champions Gowler and Prendergast, who won two golds (pairs and women's eight) and a silver during the World Rowing Cup regattas, and then starred at the World Rowing Championships in Austria in September.


At Linz-Ottensheim, they won the gold medal in a thrilling finish with the Australian crew, before both climbed into the women's eight boat to join Kerri's sister Jackie in winning the first gold medal by New Zealand in this division.

"Grace and I have had an awesome season, and to be given the FISA female crew of the year award is pretty special because women's rowing is so competitive and there are so many great crews," Gowler said.

"I am really honoured to receive the award as it is very hard to distinguish the merits of one crew from another," Prendergast added.

"It is a bit of a surprise, but I'm very happy."

Gowler and Prendergast have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray as New Zealand's next great Olympic Games pairing.

The pride of Aramoho Whanganui Rowing Club – Gowler first sat in a boat 10 years ago as a Nga Tawa Diocesan student, and would link up with Christchurch's Prendergast in 2013 in the elite women's eight.

Grace, who started rowing out of Villa Maria College in Christchurch 12 years ago and represents Avon Rowing Club, said the duo then gelled quickly after first coming together as a pair at the 2014 Rowing NZ Trials.

"We clicked straight away and it felt very natural," she said.


"I think pairs either work or they don't and we had a natural ability to row with each other."

In 2014, they won World Under 23 gold together as a pair, and were then part of the gold-medal winning women's four which would set a best time for that division at the World Rowing Champs.

The 2017 pairs world title followed, while this year signalled a strong comeback from the 2018 silver in Bulgaria.

Coach Hay was proud of his FISA coach award, but felt more delighted at the way the New Zealand women's programme bounced back from the disappointments of last year.

"We had to come home, re-group and think about how we were going to get better in 2019 – an Olympic qualifying year," he said.

"We had to look at what needed to change, and everyone, from the coaches, rowers, support staff and management, all contributed to that change.

"The 2019 results were no fluke – it was a combination of a hard effort by everyone."

Gowler and Prendergast are special people, he said.

"They rarely have an off day in training or competition and are constantly looking to improve.

"The fact they were able to double up and win two gold medals at the World Rowing Championships shows just how special they are."