Freddie Davidson hails Cambridge University squad dynamic as Boat Race test awaits
Teenager to set the rate for the Light Blues
Playing the comparison game can be such a lazy approach, but there are times when it is hard not to do so.
Backgrounds, profiles, inspirations and achievements create an easy tick list to what has happened before, and when it comes to individuals it allows the tag ‘the next…..’ to be applied.
We are always looking for the ‘next’ someone, and then get carried away making judgements on their development.
With the ever-evolving nature of the Boat Race crews, it becomes the necessity to look beyond the individual oarsmen and focus on a boat-by-boat basis, but every so often though, there is a profile that has striking similarities to the past.
When Freddie Davidson sat in the No 2 seat in last year’s Cambridge crew, he became the first British fresher to make the Blue boat since Tom James in 2003.
The similarities do not end there though, as Davidson is also studying engineering, though at Emmanuel rather than Trinity Hall, and arrived at Cambridge having been part of the GB junior system.
Another Light Blue to have trodden a similar path is George Nash, who had been part of the GB set-up prior to arriving at Cambridge to study engineering at St Catharine’s College, although he rowed in reserve crew Goldie in his first year.
And, of course, both James and Nash went on to win Olympic gold medals.
“Those guys were amazing athletes,” said Davidson, who will stroke the Blue boat this year. “It’s always nice as there is a really good alumni network so you get to meet those guys.
“It’s pretty awesome what they’ve gone on to do but they were in my position only a few years before.
“I think that’s very exciting, and I definitely want to try to follow them.”
There is a history of rowing in Davidson’s family, with his grandfather having competed for Great Britain at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1964, winning two medals, and so maybe the skill runs in the family.
But Davidson is not getting ahead of himself.
Prior to coming to Cambridge, Davidson rowed at St Paul’s for four years, during which time he did two years with the GB juniors.
After last year’s Boat Race, he competed with Will Stewart in the GB men’s pair at the World Under-23 Rowing Championship, where they finished sixth in the final.
“As a younger rower, being able to have some extra racing over the summer, especially international racing, is definitely very useful when you come back here, where most of the guys are 23 or 24 having done four years of racing at uni already,” said Davidson.
“I think it definitely pushes you up on to their level a bit more, especially as one of the younger guys in the squad.”
Having got a year under his belt, Davidson has adjusted to the demands of rowing and studying and feels ingrained in the club atmosphere, which he believes is strengthened by the closeness of the two crews.
“Last year was a little more separated between the two boats, but this year I think we have a very good full squad dynamic,” he said.
“In a race like this, with such a small squad, it makes quite a big difference because there are only 24 guys so if you have a split at all, it makes a difference.
“This is quite a tight-knit group and we’ve been able to bounce back from bad races or bad training sessions quite well because of that, so it’s definitely helped.”
And Cambridge will be hoping that dynamic will come to the fore at 5.32pm on Saturday.