Freddie Davidson reflects on time at Cambridge University Boat Club
Freddie Davidson will seek to use the experience and skills gained at Cambridge University Boat Club as a catalyst to break into the Great Britain Rowing Team.
The 22-year-old was the Light Blues president in his fourth and final year studying engineering at Emmanuel College, and while everything came to an abrupt end without the chance to take on Oxford in the Boat Race, he reflects fondly on his time at Goldie Boathouse.
Davidson arrived in 2017, and was the first British fresher to make the Blue boat since Tom James in 2003.
It may have ended in defeat to the Dark Blues that year, but the foundations had been laid for successes in 2018 and 2019.
“I think I’ve developed as a rower tremendously over the four years and, Covid aside, I’ve had a great time rowing at Cambridge,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot out of it and some of my best friends. I’ve really enjoyed it and I think it has set me up well.
“My plan now is to take on trying to get selection for the senior national team, and I think it has set me up really well to do that.
“I owe a lot to the programme and the rowing at Cambridge – looking back I wouldn’t change anything, it’s just a shame it had to end the way
To the outside world, it may not always appear so, but each year of the Boat Race programme is candidly different so, even putting results aside, it is really difficult to compare his three Blues.
“All four years were different,” he said. “The highlights of all four years have to be the races themselves – 2017 was a loss but I still see it as an important part of moving into the next year and the wins in 2018 and 2019.
“It is difficult to pinpoint a specific highlight for this season, but for me, the most enjoyment I got out of it was the winter training camp in Banyoles where it’s just the squad and coaches isolated from everything else.
“We had a really good training camp and squad there, and it was the first time I’ve been at Cambridge where we’ve managed to get three eights out side by side.
“I was pretty proud of that, and being involved in leading it.
“This year, as much as if not
more than any of the other years I’ve been involved, there was a great squad dynamic.
“You often look back at squads from the Boat Races, and there is a trend that winning squads tend to stay in touch and tight knit and the losing squads tend to drift apart a little bit more.
“This year, despite us having no end result, I think the squad will stick together and there are very strong friendships between everyone – in that regard, you could see it as a very successful season.
“It’s definitely been an awesome squad to be a part of and especially to play a part in leading.”
Davidson admits that it was a surreal finish to both his presidential year and his studies.
The gravity of the pandemic had not truly been understood when the Boat Race was cancelled, and there was shock at the time for the rowers, with just two weeks to go until the race. But what has happened since has put everything into perspective.
“It is very important to us but at the end of the day it is just a sporting event and there are a lot more important things going on in the world,” said Davidson.
“I had a great time and I think almost everyone in the squad had a great year out of it. As a squad, we really enjoyed it even though we didn’t have the icing on the cake, which is race itself.
“It lacked a bit of finality but I think if you asked anyone in the squad ‘if you knew the race would be cancelled, would you have still have gone through the training and the process?’, I think the vast majority of us would have said ‘yes’ because we had a really enjoyable year out of it, despite the lack of result at the end.”
Davidson has enjoyed the opportunity to have both a physical and a mental break from rowing, away from the pressure of results and competition.
It is the first down time in five years, and maintaining fitness has been centred on cycling.
As for what is next, Davidson is hoping to convert his success in the national junior ranks to the senior squad – he won a gold medal with men’s coxless four at the World Under-23 Rowing Championships last year, having earned a silver medal in the eight in 2018.
“The current plan is to try to break into the senior team,” he said. “Things are a bit fluid at the moment because the Olympics has been provisionally moved to 2021 so the senior team rolls over from this season into next.
“I’m hoping to try to train as close to full time as I can next year with a look to going into the senior team proper the year after, for the 2021/22 season.
“It would be more of a long-term ambition to be in the senior team for the 2024 Olympics.”