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Boat Race 2022: South African Paige Badenhorst is driven to succeed at Cambridge University



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Cambridge University's Paige Badenhorst, right, alongside Oxford's Christine Cavallo. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University's Paige Badenhorst, right, alongside Oxford's Christine Cavallo. Picture: Keith Heppell

The drive to excel in academics and rowing has been a motivating factor in Paige Badenhorst reaching the Cambridge University Blue boat for this year's Women's Gemini Boat Race.

The 23-year-old, who is from Benoni in South Africa, arrived in Cambridge to study for an MPhil in management at Magdalene College, having previously done a degree in organisational studies and environment at the University of Michigan.

“It’s just a completely different experience, I would say,” said Badenhorst.

“US versus UK is very different in how they approach sport.

“I think they are two unique experiences and one kind of builds on top of the other. I like it because it’s different. That's why I keep wanting to do something else to challenge myself more on top of what I had previously done.

“When you’re doing a degree at such a classy university it definitely stretches you. It’s been demanding on both sides because both academics and rowing are very important to me, I like to excel at both.”

That is apparent as Badenhorst twice won the Academic All Big Ten Athlete award while at Michigan, it is earned by student-athletes at least in their second academic year maintaining a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, and also the Collegiate Rowing Coaches and Association Scholar-Athlete distinction.

The switch to study at Cambridge meant that she was not quite sure what to expect, but one particular element assisted with the transition.

Paige Badenhorst will be in the Cambridge University No 3 seat. Picture: Keith Heppell
Paige Badenhorst will be in the Cambridge University No 3 seat. Picture: Keith Heppell

“I guess I was surprised by how open the team was,” she said.

“We have a really lovely dynamic and atmosphere across all the boats. I was expecting it to be a bit more cut-throat but everyone is really lovely and across all three boats, we just have a really great dynamic.

“It’s special to be a part of. I feel like I have learned so much.

“When you’re rowing in a boat with previous Blue boat competitors and Olympians, you’re going to learn so much from everyone.

“I feel like that is the biggest thing that stands out for me this year. It’s just how much I’ve grown as an athlete and how much I’ve learned from everyone else.”

Badenhorst had grown up watching the Boat Race in South Africa, and took up rowing when she was 13.

“I dreamt of doing the race and coming to the university,” she added. “I think it has exceeded expectations. I’ve really enjoyed it, loved everything about the whole process, trialling, the university, being in Cambridge itself, life in Cambridge.

“I love the lifestyle, and the experience is something else.”

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