Alizadeh on quest to retain Cambridge seat
Dara Alizadeh is set to embark on six months of interminable training as he strives to retain his seat in the Cambridge men's crew for the 165th Boat Race.
Alizadeh realised his burning ambition when he became the first Bermudian male to take to the River Thames for the annual race between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
The 25-year-old, who was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, but grew up in Harrington Sound, helped the Light Blues to a “pretty special” three-length victory.
Although Alizadeh had already experienced top-level racing, winning a silver medal in the eights for the United States Under-23 at the World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in 2015, nothing could prepare him for the Boat Race.
“I was fortunate enough to make the Blue Boat and we were fortunate enough to win,” said Alizadeh, who has four nationalities of British, American, Iranian and Bermudian.
“I'd never seen so many people come out to watch a rowing event before — it was a cool experience.
“There were parts of the race where you were nearer the fans and it got so loud.
“It's something I've always wanted to do since I started rowing. It's one of the premier events in the sport; the prestige and the amount of media attention it attracts.”
Alizadeh, whose parents live in St George's, learnt to row at Belmont Hill School, Massachusetts, before heading to the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to compete while studying economics.
He spent 2017 coaching and teaching at Winchester College in Hampshire before beginning his studies at Cambridge, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
“It's a sport anyone can pick up at any age,” he said. “My dad starting rowing a few years ago and now he's addicted to it. If you work hard, you will get pretty good at it. You can find comfort in that.”
In preparation for next year's race, which will take place on April 7, Alizadeh will be balancing his rigorous academic load with up to 20 hours of training a week.
He admits his selection is anything but a formality, despite the team's convincing victory last year.
“I will have to undergo selection just like everyone else,” he said. “We've got some guys who have been to the Olympics and it's very challenging competing with these guys, as there's only so many seats.
“It's fun to be a part of the level of rowing that Cambridge has reached over the past ten years. It's a cliché, but you never really know [of your selection] until you're sitting on the start line.”
Alizadeh has the added responsibility of being the president of the Cambridge University Boat Club. His role is to ensure Cambridge “is in the best possible position to win the race”.
He said: “It's an incredible honour to be elected [president]. I'm slowly learning all of the responsibilities that come with [the position]. It can seem overwhelming, but I love rowing and the more I can take on, the more challenges I'm faced with and the more rewarding and exciting it is.
“The dream is to have the Blue Boat and Goldie, the reserve boat, win their races. I need to make sure the team is firing on all cylinders and that I'm firing on all cylinders.”
Among Alizadeh's inspirations in the sport is Bermudian Shelley Pearson, who was part of Oxford's winning team in the Newton Women's Boat Race in 2015.
“I've met Shelley a few times,” Alizadeh said. “She had a very successful rowing career at Harvard [University] and rowed for Bermuda at the Olympics [in Rio de Janeiro in 2016].
“She's ticked all of the boxes of the cool stuff you can do for rowing. I remember watching her and thinking that's something I'd like to do.”
“It would definitely be incredible to row at the Olympics. I'm trying to be the best I can be at Cambridge and hopefully that will put me in a good spot on the world stage.”
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