Olympic gold medalist and Chef de Mission a distinguished alumnus

3 September 2015

Rob Waddell
Olympic gold medalist and Chef de Mission Rob Waddell will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this month.

Olympic gold medallist and New Zealand's current Chef de Mission, Rob Waddell, will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this month.

Robert (Rob) Waddell ONZM graduated from the University of Waikato in 1998 with a Bachelor of Management Studies with honours, majoring in marketing and Japanese.

Rowing champion

Mr Waddell was studying at Waikato when he burst onto the elite rowing scene in 1995 when he won the single sculls title at the New Zealand championships. In the following two years, Mr Waddell won the world championships in Germany and Canada – breaking records in the process.

Mr Waddell was New Zealand's only gold medallist at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, winning his race while managing a debilitating heart condition that can cause the heart to lose up to 25% of its power.

Following the 2000 Games, he received his third Halberg Award, making him the first person to win the Sportsperson of the Year Award three years in a row.

After a break from rowing, Mr Waddell took to yachting. He joined Team New Zealand as a grinder and competed in the 2003, 2007 and 2013 America's Cup campaigns.

Leading New Zealand's sports teams

More recently, Mr Waddell led the New Zealand team to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as Chef de Mission, and will do the same next year to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

As Chef de Mission, Mr Waddell is responsible for setting standards of excellence, overseeing the planning and preparation of the games management teams and ensuring the athletes and their national sports organisations have what they need to achieve within the complex Commonwealth and Olympic Games environments.

Giving back

Mr Waddell gives his time to several sporting and community bodies, including chairing the Home of Cycling Trust and as a trustee for Te Awa – the regional cycleway along the Waikato River.

He is also co-owner and manager of a thoroughbred agistment business in Cambridge.

Mr Waddell also has a long association with the University of Waikato. His wife, Sonia, is also a Waikato graduate; he has spoken at graduation ceremonies and was named an honorary member of the Golden Key Honours Society Waikato chapter in 2002.

Recognising excellence

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says Mr Waddell is an outstanding example of the all-round success Waikato graduates have become known for.

"Rob is a good, honest Kiwi bloke. He's given 100% to everything he has tried – and come away with some outstanding successes. To be successful not only in sport, but in business and leadership, is no easy feat. And Rob balances his talents extraordinarily while giving back to the community around him."

Mr Waddell says he is honoured to be receiving a Distinguished Alumni Award.

"I'm very humbled and grateful. My time studying, competing and making friends was a real high point for me and as my career has grown I have become increasingly proud of the friendship and association I have with Waikato University."

Distinguished Alumni Award

The University of Waikato's Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented on Friday 25 September at the Hamilton Gardens' Pavilion.

This year, three alumni will be recognised with Distinguished Alumni Awards. The other recipients are financial analyst, publisher and investor Peter Churchouse and singer, songwriter and business founder Hinewehi Mohi.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate and honour University of Waikato alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their careers and communities, taking into account excellence in the professional, cultural, creative and voluntary sectors.

All recipients receive a limited edition cast-glass figure made exclusively by award-winning local artist Di Tocker.