James Cracknell selected by Cambridge at 46 to become oldest-ever Boat Race competitor

Jim White
The Telegraph
The two-time Olympic champion is studying for a Masters in Philosophy at Peterhouse College Cambridge - Getty Images Europe
The two-time Olympic champion is studying for a Masters in Philosophy at Peterhouse College Cambridge - Getty Images Europe

At the age of 46, James Cracknell has become the oldest man ever to be selected to row in the University Boat Race. His place in the Cambridge eight was announced at the crew weigh-in at London’s City Hall. Wearing a light blue Cambridge rowing kit, Cracknell weighed in at 89.8kg.

More to the point, he has beaten by eleven years Mike Whereley’s long standing record as the race’s most senior competitor: Whereley was a mere 36 years old when he rowed for Oxford in 2008.

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Cracknell, the two time Olympic champion, is studying for a Masters in Philosophy at Peterhouse. Looking trim and ready, he did not appear remotely perturbed by the fact he was 25 years older than several of his crew mates.

The most decorated rower ever to compete in the race, he last rowed in competition at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But he has maintained an interest in endurance sport, running the London marathon last year in a very competitive time of 2’42”.

Despite suffering a serious head injury when he was hit by the wing mirror of a lorry as he cycled across America in 2010, Cracknell has been training intensively with the university squad since he arrived in Cambridge last September. He described his selection as “arguably my proudest achievement in rowing”. Though he added: “making the Boat is only the start, I and the other lads aren’t there for the kit and being selected, it’s about delivering on April 7th.”

Although new to the race (though he has commentated on it several times for television coverage), when he turns up on the Thames Tideway, there will be one familiar figure he will immediately recognise. Matthew Pinsent, his team mate in the gold-medal winning Great Britain four in Sydney and Athens, is also involved in the race: he will be its umpire.

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