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Boat Race 2019: James Cracknell aims to use experience to help Cambridge University

Boat Race 2019 James Cracknell at the Goldie Boathouse, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (7910781)
Boat Race 2019 James Cracknell at the Goldie Boathouse, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (7910781)

James Cracknell has admitted it has been a steep learning curve to secure a place in the Cambridge University crew for next month’s Boat Race against Oxford.

At the age of 46, Cracknell will be the oldest rower in Boat Race history when the event takes place on the Thames on April 7.

He won Olympics gold in the men’s coxless four at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the Athens Olympics in 2004, but joining the Light Blues squad, and fighting for a place in
the boat that will take on Oxford, has been an eye-opening experience.

“The eight months have gone really quickly compared to a four-year Olympiad where in the first year you’re feeling it out and working out which event you’re going to do,” he said.

“Whereas now, you meet up, you go through the first couple of months, and then you realise who you’re fighting against for your seat but still have to support each other.

“It’s been a really interesting eight months. I’ve learnt a lot about this environment.”

Cracknell, who has three children with wife Beverley Turner, is studying an MPhil in human evolutionary studies at Peterhouse and admitted suffering something of a culture shock when he started his course.

“It’s difficult to squeeze everything in,” he said.

“I did underestimate the amount of time it takes. I was the only person to turn up to my first lecture with pen and paper, everyone else had computers!”

It is a reminder of just how much older Cracknell is than his fellow crew members but, a few misunderstood cultural references aside, his experience of the big occasion can be a major factor for the Light Blues come race day.

“The ability to not be overawed by it will help, as well as the ability to put across [to the rest of the crew] what you have to expect from yourself,” he said.

“Our base level should be the best we’ve done in training. If you do the best you’ve done in training you’re going to be in the mix.

“That’s the thing I’ll try to get across – ‘use the adrenaline and the occasion to lift you up rather than going out there thinking we’ve got do something we’ve never done

“Having done big races, I can tell them the most relaxed you’ll feel in the preceding week will be when you put your hands on the boat and you’re off doing it.

“Don’t let anything distract you and once you do that you’ll feel really comfortable.”

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