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Waddell ONZM

World champion rower and gold medal Olympian


Rob Waddell is one of New Zealand's highest-profile and most respected sportspeople. Rob has a string of top New Zealand sporting honours to his name including being a two-time World Rowing Champion and Olympic gold medal winner.

Current work
Rob has a longstanding involvement at all levels in the New Zealand sports sector. In 2021, Rob stepped down from his role as Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, a role which he held for eight years, and contributed an incredible amount of in-depth understanding of high-performance sport to the role.

He was the first recipient to win the Sportsperson of the Year Supreme Halberg Award for three consecutive years, a feat only shared by one other person.

He has had a wide contribution at a governance level across the not-for-profit sector, including governance roles with the Halberg Disability Trust, Te Awa River Trust, and the Home of Cycling charitable trust where he was instrumental in bringing the Home of Cycling to Cambridge, helping to secure $32 million of funding for the Avantidrome.

In 1995 Rob burst onto the New Zealand rowing scene as the youngest person ever to win the single sculls title at the New Zealand Championships - he did this as a novice sculler. The following two years, Rob won the World championships in Germany and Canada breaking records on the water. His rowing career was topped off by winning Olympic Gold at Sydney 2000.

Rob has been a key part of three Americas cup sailing teams, culminating in the nail biting performance that Emirates Team New Zealand produced in the final of the 2013 Americas Cup.

It's these stellar performances and his personal attributes that led to his selection as the Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Olympic team where he led them into the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, followed by the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
As Chef de Mission, Rob leads the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams. This leadership role sees Rob responsible for setting standards of excellence, overseeing the planning and preparation of the games management teams and ensuring the athletes and their NSOs have what they need to achieve within the complex Olympic and Commonwealth Games environments.

Rob is a multi-talented New Zealander, sportsman, family-man and entrepreneur. In a less public arena, Rob has a number of other interests including a business degree with Honours and he is Co-owner/Manager for his own thoroughbred agistment business in Cambridge.

Rob has also given generously of his time to non-for-profits including the Halberg Disability Trust, Te Awa River Trust, and the Home of Cycling charitable trust.

He attributes his motivation and work ethic, as much to his country upbringing in Piopio where his playground included the steep hills of the family sheep and cattle farm, his selection for the local Roller Mills Rugby team and later a homemade gym in his father’s woolshed.

He is an excellent role model who has clearly demonstrated the benefits of applying his management and planning skills and what can be achieved through preparation, training and determination.

I think what comes through with Rob is his modesty and his dignified manner. He is a sportsman who lets his achievements do the talking. He is an ideal role model and brings a confidence to those around him. Rowing New Zealand

Rob covered all the topics we had discussed prior to his presentation. The audience response was very positive. Rob's presentation was captivating and humorous.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Rob was fantastic, he related to the crowd well and really inspired the delegates from his experience. The entire room was heavily engulfed his presentation.


Very positive feedback from the delegates on Rob’s presentation. It was both enjoyable and instructive.

Retirement Villages Association

Professional, succinct, great speaker and really related well to the audience.


Rob was incredibly professional and added the special touch that we were looking for at our Awards Dinner. His stories were perfectly formed to the brief and he is a brilliant speaker. We would highly recommend him to anyone.


Rob was an extremely confident speaker, very well spoken, it went at the right pace and his speech had the right mixture of comedy, seriousness, motivation and relating back to our industry. He came across as very humble and honest and it definitely achieved everything that we wanted from a guest speaker.


Rob was a fantastic speaker, he really engaged our audience tailoring his presentation to the kiwifruit industry including some very funny photos he had taken during the day when we took him out to an orchard and packhouse. I would definitely recommend Rob to anyone looking for an entertaining and inspiring guest speaker.


Rob was great, friendly, approachable and delivered a great session which the whole team really enjoyed.


The audience absolutely loved his talk. We have had amazing feedback from our audience about Rob’s talk particularly how he linked sport to leadership.

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