Boat Race 2022: Lure of rowing for Cambridge University was too strong for Imogen Grant
The temptation of returning to her roots proved too strong for Imogen Grant.
The 26-year-old medical student may be from Cambridge but only first learned to row with Trinity College after attending a taster session on the promise of some free drinks.
It has catapulted the Bar Hill resident onto the biggest stage of all, representing Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics and missing out on a medal in the lightweight double sculls with Emily Craig by just 0.01sec.
To be able to do that, Grant had intermitted her studies for a year which then became two with the delayed Games because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On returning to Cambridge University Boat Club, with whom she earned winning Blues in 2017 and 2018, trialling this academic year was not high on the agenda.
“I wasn’t really planning on doing it at the start of the year with fifth-year medicine,” she explains.
“It’s very full on and, as a lightweight rower, my focus really should be on sculling so to do a sweep race in eights felt like it could have been a bit of a diversion but I’m really pleased that I’m here and rowing with them, it’s been so worth it.
“Learning to row at Cambridge meant that the Boat Race was the first thing that people at my college boat club told me about and showed me videos of previous Blue boats.
“I went to watch the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway in 2015 as well, and it was a massive formative part of my career in rowing being developed that way by Paddy [Ryan, now chief coach but then assistant], actually, in my first year and Rob Baker in my following years.
“The last few years have been a bit of a whirlwind in terms of training with the GB team, the pandemic, the Olympics so to come back to my roots and do it all over again is really amazing.”
There are certainly major differences now though. Administratively, it is now one club, with the men’s, women’s and lightweights all joining together under the same umbrella.
But, more importantly from an athlete perspective, Grant is now one of the senior heads in the squad.
“The last two times I was in the Blue boat, I was pretty much the least experienced person in the boat both years,” she says.
“I was the last strokesider in, still really new to the picture, and I definitely learned a lot from people like Claire Lambe, who had just got back from Rio at the time, and incredible people like Miriam Goudet, Anna Dawson and Liv Coffey, who was also in Tokyo.
“To come back and not be that young 21-year-old any more, it’s a really different experience. I feel like I can give a lot more and just try to help the people that are less experienced and give them the same experience that I had when I started out.”
She adds: “I think we’ve got such a diverse group of people racing in the boat, from Jasper (Parish, the cox), who is 18 and a fresher, to someone like Grace (Prendergrast) and Ruby (Tew) who are doing MBAs and have multiple world medals.”