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Boat Race 2023: Cambridge University Boat Club’s Noam Mouelle charts his journey from the suburbs of Paris to potential Boat Race participation

Growing up in the suburbs of Paris, Noam Mouelle was well aware of the Boat Race.

He was a promising rower himself, highlighted by the four French National Championships that he won at various age groups.

Yet, despite all of that success, thoughts of one day representing either Cambridge or Oxford on the River Thames never entered the equation.

Noam Mouelle, who is hoping to be part of the Boat Race with Cambridge University Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell
Noam Mouelle, who is hoping to be part of the Boat Race with Cambridge University Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell

Instead, after completing his education on the other side of The Channel, Mouelle enrolled at Imperial College in London, believing it to be the best environment for him to continue physics studies alongside continuing his passion for rowing.

Further success followed out on the water, and the more Mouelle entrenched himself within the British rowing community, all of a sudden the previously unthinkable became a genuine possibility.

And so last summer he moved to Cambridge, where he is now studying for a PhD in particle physics at Hughes Hall. As for the rowing, the crew announcement on March 6 will provide the definitive answer, but such has been the impression made by the France Under-23 international since he arrived at the Goldie Boathouse, there is every chance Mouelle will be in the Light Blue boat come race day.

“I remember I started looking into Oxford and Cambridge from quite a young age because it’s a very well known race,” he said.

“But I didn’t really consider actually going to one of them until last year.

“I did my undergraduate in London, but I didn’t apply to either Oxford or Cambridge because I thought it would be too much of a change, going from France to the UK and taking all of that on.

“I wanted to be in London, it felt like it would be more international, but once I was there and got closer to these two universities and met people from Cambridge I started to strongly consider going. It felt like the right place to be.

“I remember watching videos and seeing pictures when I was younger of Goldie and the Boat Race.

“It’s kind of crazy to realise I’m doing exactly that thing now, I’m in exactly that place.

“I’m erging and training and all of that is part of my normal life. It’s one of those things that is hard to believe at times because as a kid it felt so far away.

“And the Boat Race as well, I knew it was big but being involved in this setting, you see how important it is.”

Back in France, Mouelle had been a judo enthusiast until the age of nine when his mother encouraged him to try a sport that would get him outdoors more often.

He proved to be a natural in the boat, although his tender years held him back initially when he had to settle for the cox role before he was deemed old enough to compete.

But once he got the green light, winning quickly became a habit.

“I loved judo and I was good at that, but my mother wanted me to do something outdoors,” he said.

“Somehow I ended up rowing on some of the smaller rivers outside of Paris and it went from there.

“At the very beginning I was too young to do the National Championships as a rower so for the first couple of years I did it as a cox. I just enjoyed being involved.

“But then I started rowing in it and I got my first medal as a J14, then two medals at J15 and I won the National Championships at J16 and again in J18. In total I won it four times in different categories and it was always such a good feeling.

“There was some international regattas for France as well growing up and the Junior World and European Championships.

“It’s never been easy, but I think you have to start at a young age.

“Rowing is not a natural motion and so the earlier you start the better it becomes, which thankfully I did.”

The British Rowing’s Inclusive Club Guide of 2018 revealed that just four per cent of its members were from black, Asian or ethnic minorities.

Today that number is thought to have risen a shade closer to six per cent, but despite a host of positive and well-intentioned initiatives being put into place by various organisations, there can be no denying that rowing remains chronically under-represented by people from different backgrounds.

It is an issue Mouelle is hopeful will correct itself in the future, yet in the main he is not interested in being viewed as a trail-blazer or an example for others to follow.

He is – he stresses – just a rower, one that is fully focused on helping Cambridge to avenge last year’s defeat to Oxford if he is given the nod. But if by doing his job Mouelle manages to inspire anyone from a different background to take up the sport, then that is ok with him.

“I don’t really feel like I’m different when I’m here at Cambridge,” he said.

“It’s just going to come with time and I feel like people are ready for the levels of diversity to improve.

“Everyone has been super welcoming and really open minded, so now you just need those people from different backgrounds to come in and that’s going to take a bit of time.

“Maybe it will be my generation that is the first generation and in a few years you’ll have more and more from different backgrounds involved.

“Some people do bring the whole situation up, but it’s not something I think about too much.

“If people do see it (Mouelle rowing for Cambridge) this way and if it helps people to join the sport or keeps them doing the sport then I’m happy, but it’s not what drives me on.

“If I want to inspire people, I just have to make sure I do my job in the boat as best I can.”

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