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American PhD student at Cambridge Wins 2015 Parmigiani Spirit Award

by Ed Moran, ed@usrowing.org | Oct 16, 2015
BOSTON, Mass. – Kirsten Van Fossen’s rowing career has been a memorable one, right from her first race as a sophomore at Moorestown High School in New Jersey right up to yesterday when she was in the Harvard-Radcliffe University Weld Boathouse preparing for a practice row before racing in the women’s alumni eight at the 2015 Head of the Charles Regatta.
_DSC0351BOSTON, Mass. – Kirsten Van Fossen’s rowing career has been a memorable one, right from her first race as a sophomore at Moorestown High School in New Jersey right up to yesterday when she was in the Harvard-Radcliffe University Weld Boathouse preparing for a practice row before racing in the women’s alumni eight at the 2015 Head of the Charles Regatta.

“In my first race in an eight my oar broke. I had to pull it in and sit there holding it for the last five hundred meters of the race,” said Van Fossen. “Then I flipped in one of my early gig races. I remember that I got back in and I did OK.”

She did more than OK. Van Fossen rowed through her senior year at Moorestown and was elected team captain while at the same time rowing in a double for the Fairmount Rowing Association in Philadelphia, competing in the USRowing Youth National Championships, and the Royal Canadian Henley in a quad, before being selected to row in the quad on the 2008 U.S. Junior National Team at the world championships.

Van Fossen went on to row at Harvard University where she was elected captain of the Radcliffe women's team, balancing up to 30 hours of training and club organization. She was named a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association's National Scholar Athlete two consecutive years.

parmiFriday, Van Fossen, now a 25-year-old PhD candidate in engineering at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain, was named the 2015 Parmigiani Spirit Award by the World Rowing Federation and Parmigiani Fleurier.

“It was a big surprise that I ended up winning the award,” Van Fossen said. “I feel like it’s a great honor. It wasn’t expected. Rowing is just one of these sports that I don’t think I can leave.

“I started my sophomore year and I was just hooked from the beginning,” she said. “I thought that I could leave it after college, not because I was tired of it, but because I wanted to try something new. But I caught the rowing bug again and I think I’ll be rowing for the next few years.”
 
While at Harvard Van Fossen studied engineering and then earned a fellowship to pursue water engineering research at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. There, Van Fossen completed a master’s thesis on “Point of Use Drinking Water Purification.”  She also spent time in Sao Paulo working at the International Reference Centre on Water Reuse contributing to a water reuse project which looked at finding a solution to water quality and scarcity issues.

kir3Her current coach, Rob Baker, nominated her for the award. "Kirsten is always ready to learn and improve her technique. She makes the very best use of coaching time on the water. Kristen arrived (at Cambridge) fit and ready to go." She was a member of the Cambridge lightweight women’s eight in 2015.

She has also distinguished herself as a student at Cambridge. "Ms. Van Fossen is a force for good in our research community and contributes to many people and projects through gifting her time and energy," said Professor Steve Evans, Director of the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at University of Cambridge. Van Fossen's research is in how the food industry can be redesigned to deliver health nutrition and improve public health.

The Parmigiani Spirit Award is in its third year and is bestowed annually. It is open through a nomination process to university rowers worldwide who demonstrate the core values of rowing in his/her social, academic and sporting life. The winner receives a hand-crafted Parmigiani Fleurier watch and the club receives a custom-built, top-of-the range Filippi eight racing shell.

Parmigiani Fleurier is a Swiss watchmaker of unique, hand-crafted timepieces. A common philosophy lies at the basis of the partnership between World Rowing and Parmigiani Fleurier which was forged in 2012. Precision, coordination and elegance are similar qualities that are needed both in the sport of rowing and in the craftsmanship of each unique Parmigiani timepiece.
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“This is a fantastic award to receive,” Van Fossen said.
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