Maddy reports on the championship: “Since completing my finals and leaving Wadham at the end of Trinity term this year, I have been rowing full-time, and this summer I was selected to represent Great Britain at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships, which took place in Rotterdam in August.
I was chosen to race in the women’s eight, the biggest boat category in rowing, and one in which my time at Oxford and in Boat Race squads has given me a lot of experience. All members of my crew were also full-time students, pursuing their rowing at university programmes both in the UK and US. The GB selection process occurs over the course of the academic year, but the final eight athletes and cox were eventually named in mid-July, after several weeks of tough seat racing. Six weeks of training together at the GB Rowing lake in Reading allowed the nine of us to bond as a crew and work on making the boat move as fast as possible ready for our upcoming races.
The event itself was the biggest World Championships to date, with the combination of Senior, Junior and U23 events making a total of 1905 competitors from 70 countries, and earning it the Twitter nickname #MegaWorlds.
There were eight boats in our category, which meant that we would line up on the start line three times during the week. On the first two days of racing, we came second in our heat behind the USA, and then won the repechage race, which left us the third-placed crew ahead of the final. As a relatively young crew, it was exciting to be able to finally put two months’ of preparation into action, but inevitably daunting to feel the pressure of such a high-profile event, especially for those of us new to this level of international racing. Approaching the final, we had quiet confidence in our potential to win a medal, but were aware that any kind of upset can occur on the day, and that crews are often able to pull out unexpected performances at this final stage of the regatta.
Before a big race, waves of nervous energy build up in an extended ‘fight or flight’ response for hours before the assigned start time, but once the first stroke is taken off the start, any doubts are replaced by focus and concentration on the task at hand. Very early in the race, the Americans, traditionally dominant in women’s sweep rowing, jumped ahead, and we were in a struggle with Russia and New Zealand from bronze and silver. A mid-race comeback from the Russians threatened our lead, but we managed to pull away from them and cross the line in second place, satisfied that we had produced our best performance where it counted.
Returning to the UK at the very end of August, it seems as if summer has passed us all by with months of preparation building up to a total of three races. For me though, the time spent working with and learning from this crew has been hugely inspiring and to come away with a medal at the end of the Championships was a very worthy ending to a summer of hard work.”