Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk to set the Boat Race pace for Cambridge University
Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk’s focus and determination makes him the perfect person to be setting the rate and rhythm of Cambridge University.
The 24-year-old Poland oarsman will be in the all-important stroke seat as the Light Blues seek their first back-to-back wins in 20 years.
Wegrzycki-Szymczyk is studying for an MPhil in management at Peterhouse College, and his attention to detail on his studies has been widely noted at Goldie Boathouse.
It is also an approach that Wegrzycki-Szymczyk takes to his rowing, balancing life as an elite sportsman with his academic commitments.
Before coming to study at Cambridge, Wegrzycki-Szymczyk was at University of California, Berkeley, and he combined being part of their Varsity 8 team with competing internationally for Poland in the single sculls; he qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016 and was fifth in the final.
“I learned to sweep at Cal,” he explained. “I started off sculling and sculled most of the time before university, and then at university I was only sweeping.
“The transitions are pretty challenging but more challenging to go to sculling from sweeping than the other way. I have done it for four years, so now it’s quite natural.
“The last few years when I’ve been competing internationally, it was always in the back of my head that I could have done better if I had prepared the whole year in a single.
“Most of the guys I’m racing they are spending the whole year for preparation in sculling, and then for me I was racing for my university until June in pretty intense races.
“There was not much of a break.”
Wegrzycki-Szymczyk enjoys the opportunity to be part of an eight, and the camaraderie it brings to be part of a crew.
“When I look back, it was a good experience and felt I got out so much from rowing in the eight in the US and that helps me in sculling again,” he said.
“It’s so much fun to be a part of the team. I love being with the guys and it’s just so much fun doing everything together.
“It’s a big motivation and the teams are usually competitive so you want to beat the other guy. We push each other so that has helped me improve a lot over the last few years.
Having watched the Boat Race growing up, it was always a dream for Wegrzycki-Szymczyk to take part but it did not seem feasible until last year.
He did a sociology as an undergraduate degree and always had an interest in business but due to his rowing commitments, he was unable to do any internships or work full-time.
However, the MPhil in management did not require any previous experience, unlike most of the MBA courses.
Yet, on the conclusion of his academic year, he will be making the transition back to sculling with the summer’s aim to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“After I graduate in June, I’m going to put my whole effort into preparing for Tokyo, said Wegrzycki-Szymczyk.
“After the Boat Race, I will not have any break, I will start training and finish my course.”
He added: “The last few years I realised that if you put in the effort you receive a lot in return. Once you set your goals and objectives you go towards them and it pays off.
“I would like to think I have always been driven and focused.”
You would struggle to find a better person to set the pace for the Light Blues in the Boat Race.
More by this authorMark Taylor