Five 2017 MBA students will battle it out against Cambridge as part of the University’s rowing team in the annual Boat Race.
The event between the two institutions is being held since 1856. The race pits an eight-person boat from each university against each other on a 4.2 mile stretch of the river Thames, known as The Tideway.
Morgan McGovern and Sara Kushma are rowing in the women’s Blue Boat, and Oxford University Boat Club President Iain Mandale and Olympian Anders Weiss will complete in the men’s blues race. Ben Bathurst will face Cambridge in the men’s Reserve race.
Although the team members have many years of rowing experience, they describe the Boat Race as a unique challenge. ‘In normal international championships, the steering doesn’t factor in too much as each team has their own lane,’ stated former intelligence analyst Morgan, who represented the United States at the 2016 Rowing World Championships. ‘But on the tideway, it’s actually a battle for the best water, so there’s a lot more pressure on the Cox to put us in the right position.’
‘The Boat Race has been a completely different experience from the Olympics so far,’ explained Anders Weiss, who competed at Rio 2016. ‘In the Olympics, you have heats, the repechage, semi-finals, and the final itself. This progression gives you an idea of the speed the competition has and what you need to do to beat them. However, in The Boat Race, you are racing once against a crew that you have never raced against in an eight, so it has a lot more unknowns.’
Another unique challenge for the MBA rowers is the balance they have to strike between their studies and training, which sees them racing past Oxfordshire’s picturesque riverbanks each morning and evening in the run up to the race. ‘The opportunity to participate in the Boat Races is a great privilege that I didn’t want to miss while at the university,’ said Ben, ‘but it does require a huge amount of dedication.’
Sara Kushma described how the School’s programme administration team and supportive classmates have helped the rowers balance these strenuous demands. ‘They have been amazing,’ she said, ‘a lot of my rowing friends would like to continue their education, but were not sure how they could make it work given their commitment to the sport. I’ve told them Oxford Saïd is the place you need to come to, because you really can do both here.’
While the majority of the MBA rowers were new to the University team in 2017, Oxford University Boat Club President Iain has been part of the boat club since he started his undergraduate degree in Physics in 2013. ‘My mother rowed for her college at Oxford and my father was also a rower, so it’s something of a family tradition,’ said Iain, who won a silver medal for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships in 2014. ‘When I was young, my father bet me £20 that I couldn’t beat his record of wins, and that friendly family rivalry has led me all the way to The Boat Race.’
Morgan and Sara, who enrolled at Oxford Saïd to enhance their knowledge of sustainable business practices from a global perspective, believe that their involvement in rowing has been crucial to their successful careers: ‘Team sports are about putting your ego aside to be part of something bigger than yourself,’ said Morgan.
‘They teach you how to work towards a very specific goal, and how to handle adversity,’ added Sara. ‘Each year, Oxford’s rowing team is refreshed with new members who must learn how to work and win together. I’m sure the lessons we have learnt as a team will be indispensable to our careers.’