The Boat Race 2018: Q&A with Kelsey Barolak
American rower Kelsey Barolak tells us about competing for Cambridge in the 2018 Cancer Research UK Boat Race
Cambridge University | Homerton College | Course MPhil in Psychology & Education | 22yrs • 182cm • 78.5kg
Where are you from in the States, and what brought you to the UK? What are you studying here?
I am from Riverside, CT. I came to the UK right after finishing my undergrad to continue my studies and gain research experience. I am currently studying for an MPhil in Psychology and Education
What got you involved in rowing, and how did you come to be a part of 2018's Boat Race?
I started rowing at my high school, St. Andrew's, a small boarding school in Delaware. The more I rowed the more I fell in love with the sport, and even after rowing for four years at Harvard I didn't want to stop. Cambridge is one of the only places I could keep rowing at a high level and continue my studies, so for me it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
The first Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race took place over 180 years ago, in 1829. Is the Boat Race an event you were aware of before you arrived in the UK? What does it mean to be taking part in such a historic event, and one which Oxford and Cambridge alumni the world round take an interest in?
I did know about the Boat Race before coming to the UK, and the history of the event was part of the reason I decided to come to Cambridge. There is nothing else like the Boat Race, and it is incredible to be a part of it.
Given the traditional British weather, is it more difficult to train in the UK than it is in the USA?
In my experience wherever I have rowed the weather has never gotten in the way of training. Each place has its own challenges, but I wouldn't say one is more difficult than another. The biggest difference between training in Boston and Cambridge has been that we row through the winter in the UK whereas in Boston that is just not impossible when the Charles freezes.
How do you prepare in terms of training for the Boat Race?
We came to the UK in September, and since then we've been following a training plan ultimately geared toward the Boat Race. The time is split between rowing, erging, and strength training, and is set up so that we can train around classes and work.
How intense is the Oxford / Cambridge rivalry when it comes to the Boat Race?
From my experience the rivalry is always present, but not particularly intense. It is always something in the back of our mind, that at the end of the day we're training to beat Oxford, but we don't often talk about it, and when we do it is always with respect.
Although the US and UK speak a common language, given the slight differences in culture - and even US/UK terminology - how easy is it to be part of an international crew?
There was a bit of culture shock when I first got to the UK, but it didn't take long to get used to the differences. I've found it has been really rewarding to train with an international squad, and to be able to learn from so many perspectives and experiences.
As an American, what do you enjoy about living and studying in the UK, and is there anything you miss about the USA whilst you're here?
The academic experience here has been much more independent, and I've really enjoyed being able to explore my research interests and take ownership of my studies in a way that I didn't have the opportunity to in the US. I do miss the food, though.
A big part of the Boat Race is its charitable donations - in particular to Cancer Research UK. How does it feel to take part in a sport you love whilst also being part of raising money for a great cause?
It is a really rewarding experience. I'm reminded every day that I am so lucky to be here, and I'm grateful for every minute of it.
How much of an accomplishment and a personal achievement is it for you to be part of the 2018 Boat Race? Is there a big sense of pride at representing the USA in your crew at the Boat Race?
This is a huge personal achievement for me. I thought I would be done with rowing after I graduated, but having the opportunity to row for Cambridge gave me the opportunity to keep improving, and being a part of the Boat Race is an incredible accomplishment. I am proud to represent the USA, and proud to represent Cambridge.
Find out about more of the Americans competing in this year's Boat Race below: