Boat Race 2022: Ruby Tew completes a glittering rowing CV with Cambridge University
Ruby Tew has a glittering and seamlessly never-ending CV.
An international athlete, a double Olympian, a business owner, working at an accounting firm, a long-time student, there are many strings to her bow.
But despite all that, being at the University of Cambridge has opened an even bigger door to the world.
“I won’t say it’s been easy the whole time, but it’s been a challenge in a really great way,” says the 28-year-old New Zealander, ahead of the Gemini Boat Races on Sunday.
Preparing for a life after professional sport is what brought Tew to Queens’ College, and she is studying an MBA.
“I have an all-over-the-place working history outside of rowing,” she explains.
“The Cambridge MBA was a really good opportunity to work out what I wanted to do next, having done so many different things.
“I thought I would come here and it would be quite clear what I wanted to do, but actually it’s really opened my eyes to how many more things are out there that I didn’t know existed – which is good and bad!
“It’s incredible to have such a diverse mix of people. It’s diverse but then there are 220 of us and they are probably 220 of the most outgoing, socially-driven people I’ve ever met in my life.
"Everyone is very different, but also similar in terms of characteristics.
“It’s unbelievable. There are literally things going on every two minutes of the day, there are too many things you can be involved in.”
In the past, she has studied at or through the University of Otago, Massey University, the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand and the Institute of Directors, and a broad range of subjects.
But she is also the co-owner, founder and managing director of the Athlete Food Company.
It is a business launched with fellow New Zealand international rower Lucy Spoors.
“We decided that we both love to cook and we saw this huge gap in the market in New Zealand for catering for young athletes and sports teams,” explains Tew.
“We really tried to fill that gap and it was way more successful and popular than I think we ever thought so that was a good experience.
“It’s been small for the last few years, but we’ve operated on a barebones structure so there was not a lot of cost associated with continuing to run the company even while Covid was going on.”
Life after rowing becomes much more pertinent for Tew as Sunday is set to herald her retirement from the elite level.
It will be marked by completing a “bucket list” of rowing achievements, that of rowing in the Boat Race. She will be in the No 4 seat.
It has been a long association with the sport that started at the age of 14 and has taken in wealth of experiences.
An international breakthrough came in 2012 at the World Rowing Junior Championships, where she won bronze in Bulgaria with the junior quad sculls.
The progression continued with a national title following, and a silver medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships which qualified the New Zealand eight for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they would narrowly miss out on a medal, finishing in fourth place.
Tew won bronze with the New Zealand eight at the 2017 World Rowing Championships, and was then part of the quadruple sculls at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where they were second in the B final.
“It’s always hard to put a finger on highlights,” she says.
“Probably my very first year in the team was a real highlight, 2015.
"I was doing my undergrad during 2014 and made the elite team during the summer and then made the women’s eight a couple of weeks later.
“Then we went away to the World Champs that year and came second which is the best the women’s eight has ever done, and we qualified the boat for Rio.
“I was 21 at the time, and it was a seriously cool experience.”
Elite sport is nothing new to the family though as her father, Steve, was the chief executive officer of New Zealand Rugby from 2008 to 2019.
“I spent my entire childhood running around the back of stadiums – watching rugby games has been a huge part of my life,” says Tew.
“It’s been really nice for me since I’ve been part of a high performance sport programme in New Zealand and the challenges that come with that, that he understands them.
“He just gets it, whereas I think sometimes parents struggle to understand what that environment looks like for their kids.
“Dad has always known, which is really nice, and rugby operates in such a fantastic way, he’s always had good advice for me.
“He sends me the best motivational texts and emails.”
The environment at Cambridge did catch Tew a little off guard. She had been used to studying remotely while part of the New Zealand national set-up and so the demands of the MBA were not too much of a surprise, but the training levels were not quite what she expected.
“I think this is probably naive but I thought the training in Cambridge would be less actually,” she explains.
“Cambridge train very hard, and the main difference really is that you don’t get to home, lie on your bed for four to five hours resting in between sessions.
“Here, you’ve got to get off the train and run to class, then do class and run back to Goldie and start again.”
So where will the Boat Race rank in terms of her career, especially as the curtain is set to come down at an elite level on Sunday?
“That’s a really tough question,” says Tew.
“Coming to Cambridge was so worthwhile, rowing so worthwhile. It will obviously be hard to beat the Olympics but the Boat Race has been fantastic for me in so many other ways.
“It’s also a really nice way to leave the sport. It’s been a fantastic sport for me – I’ve loved my entire experience and this is the perfect way to end it.”