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Boat Race 2021: Theo Weinberger makes weighty impression to reach Cambridge University crew

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Theo Weinberger will be in the Cambridge University bow seat for the 166th Men's Boat Race. Picture: Keith Heppell
Theo Weinberger will be in the Cambridge University bow seat for the 166th Men's Boat Race. Picture: Keith Heppell

Theo Weinberger’s route to the Cambridge Blue boat has been eventful, to say the least.

This year marks a decade since he first started rowing at Eton, and the 23-year-old has certainly packed a lot into that time.

He has raced for GB as a J16 in a match against France, won gold for the second eight at the National Schools’ Regatta, broken a leg in the middle of trialling and transitioned from the lightweights to heavyweights. For good measure, you can also put into the mix being selected for reserve Goldie crew for last year’s cancelled race.

Weinberger has been at Cambridge five years. He is studying an MPhil in scientific computing at St John’s College with ambitions to do a PhD in condensed matter systems from next year. It is also his fifth year trialling for the university, and that has come with its ups and downs.

The first two years were with the lightweights, but his fresher campaign had a premature end.

“Of all things, just after the lightweight Trial VIIIs, I was going out to Wetherspoons afterwards, and running down the road on an icy day, slipped, dropped my leg and the next thing I knew I was in Addenbrooke’s with a broken leg,” explains Weinberger.

“Although, actually at the time, I didn’t know it was a broken leg – it took three or four weeks to work that one out.

“When I went down to Addenbrooke’s they told me that they thought it was probably just a torn muscle so I was doing physio and trying my best to train as I was meant to be going on training camp in a week’s time at that point.

“It was the day before I was about to fly out, I went down to see one of the physios here and she said, ‘There is absolutely no way you’re rowing on that – it’s way more serious than a torn muscle’.

“I went to get a scan and it turned out I had a nice little fracture down my fema.”

A long lay-off ensued, but he was able to get back to help Lady Margaret Boat Club take their second headship in a row in the May Bumps.

It was to be second time lucky for Weinberger in 2018, when he was selected for the lightweights Blue boat and helped them to victory over Oxford in a race that was, coincidentally given this year’s race switch, moved to Dorney Lake.

Having made the decision to step up to the openweights in 2019, the balance of academics and sport proved difficult to manage and he was a spare.

After going through the process again, he was chosen for Goldie for the cancelled 2020 race and so it is third time lucky with selection to this year’s Blue boat, but what have been the biggest challenges transitioning from lightweights to openweights?

“I was one of the bigger guys in the lightweights so you are quite used to being at the top end of the squad in terms of erg scores, and you come into the heavyweights and you are down the bottom because you weigh 15kg to 20kg less than some of the guys out there,” he explains.

“You persevere and grind away. I’ve been getting closer and moving up the rankings in terms of my raw scores, and, of course, I’m 10kg lighter than a lot of the guys.

“It’s certainly been difficult. You have to learn to be up there and try to compete with the bigger guys.

“I was on the bigger side for the lightweights so cutting down to weight was quite a grim experience for me so I’m never going to complain about not having to do that again.

“I would say that is probably the main difference, but also a bit more weights training to bulk up.

“Fundamentally, rowing is rowing and there are only so many ways that you can make a boat move fast so the fundamental principles are the same.”

Weinberger’s technical abilities will be to the fore in the bow seat of the Cambridge crew on race day, making sure the balance is maintained in the boat and, with the side-by-side racing at Ely, communication will be key.

And while the venue may take some getting used to, the primary objective remains the same.

“We go out there and train every day so it’s going to take a shift in mind frame and headspace to work out this is the place we’re racing rather than just a place to train,” added Weinberger.

“When you know it’s the people you’ve been training to beat for a year or so, I’m sure everyone will be all guns firing for that and very excited for it too.”

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