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This Sunday 26th March is the annual Boat Race when rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge Universities race along the River Thames. This year our MSc in Clinical Embryology Student Anna O’Hanlon, has been selected to cox the Oxford Men's boat, a huge honour.

After winning the Men's race last year, the Oxford crew will be keen to retain their title for a second consecutive year, and the Oxford Women's crew are aiming to bring a win back for the first time since 2017. Our department has a great track record in representing Oxford in the boat race, as Megan Stoker (MSc by Research student) rowed in the Oxford's Women’s crew in 2021 and this year one of our current medical students, Alison Carrington is also rowing in the Oxford Women's boat. Great achievements.

This year is the turn of MSc in Clinical Embryology Student, Anna O’Hanlon, who has the huge honour of representing Oxford as the Cox in the Men's crew. Scroll down to hear about Anna's rowing journey so far:

Why are you studying your course?
I like the idea of being able to help couples achieve their goals of starting a family.

What is the most interesting part of your course?
I find all the technological advancements in the fertility field really interesting and amazing as the area constantly evolves to meet the growing demand for services.

Year you first started rowing?

First rowing club
Loreto Normanhurst/UTS Haberfield.

Why/How did you get into rowing?
My family has always been involved in rowing, my father was a national team cox and my mother was a state representative rower. All my siblings have been involved in the sport at some point, with one of my elder sisters representing Australia at a junior level. Going to rowing camps from a young age and spending most of my weekends at regattas, the sport has always been a part of my life, sometimes a little too much!

Name of first rowing coach?
Bill and Leslie Dankbaar.

Who is your rowing idol?
I have many idols in the sport for different reasons. My first rowing coach Bill Dankbaar. My father is my coxing role model (closely followed by Alannah Burdess).

How do you balance rowing and academic life?
I find rowing actually helps with the academic workload as I’m normally up early and the time pressure means I have no choice but to get my work done. No matter how much time I’m given I will always leave everything to the last minute.

Who would be your dream team eight to row with from everyone in the history of rowing? A goal would be to get a family boat with all my older siblings (5), my parents and finish it off with my aunt so that finally the youngest can be in charge and tell everyone what to do.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I started coxing when I was at school and have been going for 12 years now, although I’ve quit a few times and vowed never to return, but here I am. My biggest achievement so far would probably be doing the Head of the Yarra race (8km) twice in one day (=over an hour of head race coxing and steering). Needed a hot minute to myself and a few drinks after that.

Your favourite race so far?

My favourite race is always the men’s lightweight 8+ at Australian Nationals. Every year I get to race with, and against, some of my best friends and the vibes are immaculate. The amount of very average chat and banter on the start line is unbelievable.

What is the best place you have ever rowed?
I think I’m obliged to say The Sydney International Regatta Centre as my mother had a hand in the design. Obviously, it’s long hours and hard work – what inspires you to keep rowing?

Obviously, it’s long hours and hard work – what inspires you to keep rowing? I’m honestly not sure... somehow I keep ending up back in a boat. I think I get slightly too much joy out of watching eight men red line themselves.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement through rowing, be it accolades or something more?
Having Tim McLaren tell me I did well at my first Henley, even if he thought I was going to take the paint off the oars on the booms.

What has been your most embarrassing/funny rowing moment?
Splitting an eight on Sydney Harbour ferry wash with the UTS women’s team and having to row back with two of the girls holding the boat together.

What is your favourite sports quote?
“You have to go slow to go fast” – Tim McLaren, at least once a week.

How would you describe the sport to a non-rower?
Coxing = shouting and pulling on strings.

How does being an athlete make you a better person?
The sting of the tiny blisters on my fingers from the steering strings really makes me appreciate the little things in life.

Why do you think someone outside of the sport can relate to your career as an athlete so far?
I think everyone can relate to the hard work and hours of dedication in pursuit of a hard-to-reach goal.

What are your strengths, as a person and as an athlete?
I back myself. Both a blessing and a curse, especially when it comes to steering. What do your friends think of your athletic success?

How do you handle missing out on activities with friends because of your athletic schedule?
My non-rowing friends think I’m a little nuts for surrendering sleep and getting up at such an ungodly hour for training. I make a big effort to manage my training and social life and often that means that the time I spend with my friends is of a higher quality.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing?
My biggest hobbies are spoiling my puppy and cooking. I also love animals having studied them for 5 years and love travelling to see amazing wildlife.


 Read the full Boat Race 2023 programme here.

You can watch the race live on BBC1 from 3:30pm. The race start times are as follows:

4pm (The 77th Women's Boat Race) and 5pm (The 168th Men's Boat Race) You can view the course here


Best of luck to Anna and both the Oxford Men's and Women's crews!



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