Grace Prendergast is a part of the Women’s Pair & Women’s Eight who claimed Gold and Silver at the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo.
Grace began rowing for Villa Maria College out of Avon Rowing Club in Christchurch in 2007. She made her first New Zealand team as part of the junior women’s four in 2010. This crew went on to win gold at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Racice, Czech Republic.
Grace went through the Rowing Performance Centre system with Southern. She competed at U23 level in the four in 2012, and was part of the elite women’s eight that placed 7th in 2013. After a gruelling summer sculling regime under Dick Tonks, Grace found herself in the pair with Kerri Gowler at the New Zealand team trials in 2014. The duo instantly formed a fast combination and went on to win gold at the World Rowing U23 Championships in a new World Rowing U23 Championship best time (later beaten in 2019). Just weeks after their U23 campaign they were selected to be part of the women’s four at the elite World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam. The four produced a phenomenal race, winning by over six seconds, destroying the previous world-best time and setting a new marker at 6:14.36 that still stands today.
Grace went on to help qualify two boats for the 2016 Olympic Games, rowing in both the eight and pair at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and picking up two silver medals in the process. A Rio 4th place in the women’s eight left her hungry for more and in 2017 she and Kerri went through the season unbeaten, set a new world-best time and became World Champions in Sarasota. In 2018 the pair finished a close second behind Canada, and they were out for revenge in 2019. Changes came in 2019 for Grace when she was selected into both the women’s pair and the women’s eight for the international season. However, she stuck to the pair at World Rowing Cup III where she and Kerri won the gold medal. Outside of this regatta, they raced in the eight as well as the pair at Henley and World Rowing Cup III to prepare for the double at the World Rowing Championships.
Grace was in scintillating form at the World Rowing Championships in 2019, winning gold in both the women’s pair and the eight. It was the first time New Zealand had won the women’s eight in the history of the World Rowing Championship regatta.
After being missed selection for Rio in the women’s pair and between that and disappointment and coming 4th in the Eight’s shaped her determination for the Tokyo Olympic Games where she I came away with a Gold in the Women’s Pair and Silver in the Women’s Eight. The silver in the women’s eight was a massive step for female rowing in New Zealand, being the first time that a women’s eight had ever got a medal at an Olympics . A massive feat considering it was only four years earlier at Rio that a New Zealand women’s eight first ever competed at an Olympics.
Grace hasn’t just been successful on the water. She has completed a Bachelor of Business Studies and a Master’s of Business Studies from Massey University.
As a speaker Grace can over topics including sacrifice, high performance, overcoming adversity, resilience, mindset, communication, conviction and the importance of having absolute faith in your team.