Rowers down under

ouwbcOUWBC rowers Anastasia Chitty and Maxie Scheske swapped snowy Oxford for an Australian heat wave  last month as they competed for Team GB in the Australian Olympic Youth Festival, bringing home five medals between them. The festival takes place in Sydney Olympic venues every four years and sees elite young athletes, many of whom go on to participate in full Olympic competition, test themselves across 17 different sports.

“Competing in Australia was an amazing opportunity,” said Chitty. “Winning a medal in each of my boat classes was really satisfying and it was great to achieve what I had set out to achieve, especially coming away with gold in the four.” The first-year medical student won no less than three medals overall, including a silver in the Women’s Pairs and a bronze in the Women’s Eights. Scheske won silver in the Quadruple skulls and bronze alongside Chitty in the Eights.

Despite facing immense challenges, not least the 48 degree heat, both told me how privileged they felt to be part of the event.

“Competing in Australia was incredible for many reasons,” said Scheske. “Firstly, being able to visit a country I’d never seen before, especially during a summer heat-wave, was very welcome in the middle of the British winter!” It wasn’t all fun and games, however. “There was a lot of hard work involved, so we didn’t get much time to sightsee! The event was very professionally run, and competing in a multi-sport environment was an eye-opening experience.”

“The event itself was unique,” added Chitty. She raced in three categories, compared to previous tournaments in which she’d stuck to one. “The British Olympic Association marketed the event as a fantastic opportunity to experience one of the biggest multi-sport events for juniors, and it certainly was amazing.” Chitty highlighted the opening ceremony, drinks with the British High Consul and staying in an athletes’ village as exciting new experiences.

The event ran from 16-20 January, meaning that the rowers missed the first week of term. Both remain coy on the question of balancing academic commitments with high level athletic competition.

“Juggling all the work and training isn’t straightforward,” opined Scheske. “But it’s a choice I’ve made and so I make it all fit together…just!

“We train just as hard as all the other girls in the Blues squad,” she added. “Everyone manages, as well as having a great time.”

For Chitty, the key is being prepared to get up early, although she has accepted that between rowing and work there isn’t much time for other pursuits. “Hopefully I will be able to sustain the balance when exams start approaching!” she said, already keeping an eye on Trinity Term.