Jonty Page found rhythm and Blues to get in tune with Cambridge University Boat Club
Jonty Page has transformed from the reluctant rower to a skilled figure at the top end of the sport.
The 21-year-old Pembroke College student was on course for a place in Cambridge University Boat Club’s crew before the coronavirus led to the cancellation of this year’s Boat Race on March 29.
The fact it will be the first year since 1945 that there has been no official race should not take away from the efforts or ability of the engineering student.
A pianist and saxophonist, Page had been involved in big band music at Farlingaye High School, and would have been widely recognised as a musician rather than a sportsman during his teens.
It was an ambition to continue the musical theme when he arrived to study at Cambridge, but for one reason or another, it did not come to fruition.
“After the music didn’t pan out, I was looking for something else to do,” says Page, who is in his fourth and final year.
“Everyone at that point had been bugging me so much to try this rowing thing saying ‘you’re tall, and fairly fit, I’m sure you could do quite well at this’.
“I didn’t want to do it, but eventually I thought I would go and sit on an ergo to try it, and I beat everyone immediately. It has progressed from there.”
While Page says he may have been more associated with music during his school days, his sporting pedigree had always been there – and probably in the genes.
From six to 16 he had played rugby at Ipswich Rugby Club, and is the son of two sporty parents, who met teaching PE, with his mother a sprinter and father a national-level basketball player at Loughborough and Sheffield.
But his main aim was to study at Cambridge, and so he took a step back from the sport.
However, having picked up an oar as a novice at Pembroke, Page was soon spotted by then-CUBC assistant coach Richard Chambers, who had noticed some impressive ergo scores.
It meant the 6ft 6in oarsman was taken into the development squad in the summer of his first year, enabling him to trial the next season.
“When I learned to row, the only real way from college to CUBC, just purely from an athletic level perspective, is through the development programme and Richard was integral to me making it to where I am now,” says Page.
“He essentially taught me to row; if someone asked me who taught me to row, I would say him.
“The jump from college rowing to this level is massive, and it’s made a lot easier this year because we’ve kept a third eight for the entire year.
“It means guys that have some real potential but aren’t quite good enough to race at Goldie [the reserve crew] level, in previous years, they would have given up because we can’t keep them on because of the numbers.
“This year there is a third eight which can act as a development platform to progress onto Goldie in a season or two’s time.”
The musical background has certainly helped Page’s progress.
With rowing being a rhythmic sport, and music providing an innate sense of rhythm, it hastened his development in terms of rhythm and timing.
It means that Page has risen through the ranks in three years trialling, first being in the spare, then being in the victorious Goldie crew last year.
“I’m in quite a lucky position in that I’m probably one of two guys in this team that has been the guy being seat raced to be cut off the bottom of the squad and the guy being boated in the Blue boat every session,” he says.
“I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum, I’ve been quite lucky. It gives me a broad sense of perspective and understanding of the process.”
It is at this point that Page needs to be challenged by his use of the term ‘lucky’.
To go through the six-month programme of trialling is about hard work, dedication and ability, not really fortune.
“You make your own luck, and of course there is luck involved, and people who work hard tend to be more lucky – I’m a strong believer in that,” says Page.
“I’m a massive believer that it doesn’t matter where you started, or what circumstances your life is in, if you work hard then you can get to wherever you want to be.”
He added: “It’s a privilege to row for Cambridge. You just look at Goldie [Boathouse] and it’s an awesome environment and I will miss it next year.”
More by this authorMark Taylor