Trinity student Imogen Grant will compete for the second time in the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Race on 24 March 2018. After convincing victories last year for both the Women’s Blue Boat and reserve crew, Blondie, the 2018 crews must be looking forward to the challenge. Here Imogen describes how she combines fourth-year medical training and rowing at University and international levels.
How do you combine fourth-year medicine with University rowing and international competitions?
It’s not easy, but it has been made possible by the support of the Clinical School and the flexibility of my coaches. Sometimes it can be frustrating when I feel like I’m not quite able to give either passion 100%, but I like to be busy and to challenge myself. Practically, this year, it has meant quite a lot of travelling between placements far away and training to ensure I’m at the right place at the right time.
How has the School of Clinical Medicine helped you combine your medical and rowing training?
The Clinical School has been amazingly supportive this year. I think it is sometimes a misconception that once you start your clinical years you have to begin choosing between extra-curriculars and medicine. Dr Richard Davies is the Associate Dean for Student Welfare, and with his help we ensured that I could go to all the placements and teaching as well as my rowing training. I did extra weeks of placement over Christmas to ensure I didn’t miss anything when I was away for training camp, and I have placements in the Easter holidays too.
What you have learnt from rowing that you think will help you in your medical career?
I have learnt things that you could learn from any team sport, which help me now and will also help me in medicine in the future. In rowing, you have to improve yourself but also be a cohesive crew; you have to do both all the time otherwise you won’t go fast. You also have to learn to keep your head and perform under pressure. Also, in a large team where everyone is competing for the same seats, you learn how to support others. All of these skills are vital for working in large care teams in the medical profession, especially as we move towards increasingly integrated approaches to patient care between the community and hospitals.
What are your plans rowing wise in the near and further-off future?
For now, my focus is on the Boat Race (it ends up being quite all consuming!) but after that I will be gearing up for the Final GB trials, hoping to be selected to compete internationally again this summer. Ultimately I want to represent GB at the Olympics, but a lot of things have to go right before I can start thinking of that as a real possibility!
Medical-career wise, what do you have mind?
I am interested in obstetrics, and I am also drawn to the challenge of surgery. I haven’t fully decided though, and I know many people change their minds over the course. I know that wherever I end up specialising, it will be an area that I feel challenges me, and forces me to better myself from day to day.
Looking back, did you ever imagine yourself today?
When I came to uni I didn’t even think that I would enjoy rowing, let alone have it become such a part of my life! I watched the first Women’s Boat Race on the Tideway from the bank and remember thinking ‘I want to be there doing that’, but as a lightweight I didn’t think it was possible. I feel very lucky to have got as far as I have.
What’s the difference between taking part the Boat Race and competing internationally?
The racing is just as fierce at both events, but you have to approach them very differently. The Boat Race is so much longer than international racing, and you only need to beat one other crew. It leads to a slightly different style of racing, but ultimately the goal is still the same – cross the finish line first! In some ways, the Boat Races are much more of an event, there’s more filming, media and hype compared to what I have seen internationally. However, I am still very new to international racing and there are a lot of things I haven’t done yet!
What’s your practical advice to someone juggling rowing and studying?
You can only do something like this if you enjoy it. If you want to do something enough you can make it happen, it might just take some sacrifices like early nights, strict work schedules and rearranging some things. All I can say is, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to do it otherwise!