Boat Race 2017: Claire Lambe engineers a chance to create place in history with Cambridge University
PUBLISHED: 06:50 01 April 2017
Rio Olympian bids for memorable double in Cancer Research UK Boat Races
Claire Lambe has already earned a place in rowing history for Ireland, and now she is focusing on doing the same with Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club.
The 26-year-old was part of the first Irish women’s crew to reach an Olympic final, when she partnered Sinead Lynch to sixth place in the lightweight women’s double sculls in Rio.
“We were pretty happy with the result. To make the final was a big deal for Irish rowing because a lightweight women’s double had never even qualified and no women’s crew had made a final before,” she said.
“So there was a really good reaction back home to that result.
Obviously, it would have been great to go a step further and win a medal but we came away pretty satisfied with it.
“We started off the season not performing very well. But we stepped it up every competition and in the last World
Cup we finished fourth so we were always going in with the intention to win a medal, but I think everybody is.
“Then you just have to deal with the conditions and competition that comes your way on the day.”
Qualifying for an Olympics completed a long-held ambition for Lambe. But it meant that it is difficult for the Dublin-born rower to sum up her emotions on competing in Rio, having devoted so much of her life to achieving the dream.
“It was amazing, obviously,” said Lambe. “It’s actually hard when people ask me that question because to me it just feels like the whole thing was a six-year journey and that was just the very tip that people actually see.
“But when I think of how was the Olympics, I think how was that whole journey of deciding that I wanted to go for that goal to actually getting there. So, it was a long journey.
“I hoped to qualify for 2012 as well, under Rob (Baker, the CUWBC head coach) and Adrian Cassidy’s guidance, and that was really disappointing when it didn’t come true or come to fruition.
“To finally get there four years later made it pretty sweet.”
And the switch from the national set-up to the demands of Cambridge have helped give Lambe a new focus after the Olympics.
She is studying for an MPhil in engineering for sustainable development at Homerton College, having also studied engineering for her undergraduate degree.
“It was the course that pulled me here, it’s just something that’s not really covered in too many other universities,” she said.
“It’s kind of using my engineering to, let’s say make the world a better place or deal with the challenges that we’re facing globally and with climate change and everything else.
“But also, Rob Baker coached me back in Ireland from 2009 until 2012 as part of the Irish system.
“I think it may have planted the seed as well of coming over here.
“When I was hoping to qualify for London, I was training during my undergraduate degree and that was pretty intense training along with study as well.
“Over here, we manage it quite well. It’s good that everybody is in the same boat, everyone is training to get through their degree and do well at the same time.
“So in that sense it’s good, and everyone is motivating each other and picks each other up when they’re down.
“It is totally manageable and you’re definitely in the best environment to do it.
“It’s actually been a perfect transition for me, because this is so new and so different yet I’m still getting to do the sport that I love to do and also taking some of the focus away from just training and back into my career and education.
“Also, in the Irish team it’s a pretty small group, like the maximum I think we’ve had over the last three years is 10 people training in the whole team, and it was guys and girls.
“Here, now, I’m in a squad of over 25 girls and it’s a really good atmosphere, but a very different atmosphere as well.
“I’m really enjoying it, and I think it’s been a good thing to be able to back off slightly from the intensity of rowing that was the last four years but still pursue it to get with the Boat Race and having a big goal.”
And if Lambe can and help CUWBC to victory in the Cancer Research UK Boat Races on Sunday, April 2, then
she would add a spot in Light Blues’ history as part of their first win on the Tideway since the women’s race earned equal billing with the men’s event to the place she holds in Irish rowing folklore.