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Women Join Men On Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Day


Equality of a sorts is coming to the sport of rowing. The Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race is an annual tradition that goes back to 1829. But this year will be the first time that the women's event is held on the same day. In the past, the women's race took place on a different stretch of the River Thames, and it simply didn't get as much attention from spectators or television coverage, for that matter. This year though, is going to be different. And one of the women competing today for Oxford is Caryn Davies. She's a native of Ithaca, N.Y., now getting her MBA at Oxford and a three-time Olympic medalist. Welcome.

CARYN DAVIES: Thank you. It's so good to be here.

KEITH: I'm hoping that you could explain the significance of the women's race moving to the same course on the Thames and being held on the same day.

DAVIES: So just to put it in perspective in terms of numbers, the viewers that watch the men's race on the BBC is somewhere between seven and ten million, which is more than watched the Olympic rowing races that I raced in in the past.


DAVIES: So it's a big deal to be racing on the same day over the same course, because now we're going to get that same amount of attention. And specifically, I'm excited about the number of young women that will be watching and will see us as role models and think, I really want to do that. And then they'll get involved in sports.

KEITH: You've rowed in three Olympics, won two gold medals, one silver. How does this boat race compare?

DAVIES: It's completely different. For one thing, the Olympic course is two kilometers. This race is seven kilometers. It's a duel, which means either you win or you lose, there's no in between. And what's most interesting for us is there are no lanes. So it's really anybody's race as to what stretch of river you take. And there are so many variables in terms of the flow of the tide and potential clashing of oars. So you really just have to prepare for the unexpected.

KEITH: Did you know much about this race growing up? And do you think that people outside of Britain actually take notice of it?

DAVIES: Certainly rowers have heard of the Boat Race. When I was in college I knew some men, of course, because it was only the men who raced this particular race, who had gone to Oxford or Cambridge and competed in it. And it was never an option for me until just this year. And it's very famous, as I said, seven to ten million television viewers, more so in this country, but most rowers in the states have heard of the boat race.

KEITH: This didn't have anything to do with your decision to get an MBA at Oxford, did it?

DAVIES: Yes it did. (Laughter).

KEITH: (Laughter). Really?

DAVIES: I thought about getting an MBA back when I started law school at Columbia. I was thinking about doing a joint degree, but decided not to. And then when I heard that the women would be joining the Boat Race, I thought, OK, maybe it's time to get that MBA after all. It's killing two birds with one stone. Get a good education and get a chance to make history.

KEITH: Caryn Davies, three-time Olympian and part of this year's Oxford women's boat crew. Thanks for being with us.

DAVIES: Thanks so much Tamara. I had a really good time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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