45 year old competes to row for Oxford


A 45 year old Oxford student could compete in the 2012 Varsity boat race.

James Ditzell, an Australian and a masters student at Pembroke college where he studies Management, competed on behalf of his home country at the under-23 world championships in 1989 before many of his team-mates were even born; the rest of the team are comparative youngsters, with an average age of just 23.7. The second oldest is Justin Webb at 30 years old.

The President of the squad, Karl Hudspith, told Cherwell, “When James arrived on the first day it surprised me to see someone so old having a go at trialling for the blue boat. Initially I didn’t think he would last long, but he surprised us all by pulling a very impressive ergo score in the first week, beating many who were half his age.”

He continued, “Unfortunately age does have a cost, and an untimely rib injury that kept him off the water for six weeks dealt a big blow to his selection chances. However, even if James is not in one of the crews on race day, he has shown great character and determination to last the whole way through the season and complete the training program.”

Rowing is a notoriously demanding sport, requiring power as well as endurance, and can be challenging for more senior athletes. However, the maintenance of a good level of training can keep older competitors at their peak for far longer than previously thought.

Were Ditzell to be chosen to compete in the final team of eight, he would set a new record for the oldest rower to compete in the Varsity Boat race in the history of its 158 contests. The record is currently held by Mike Wherley, an Oxford student who competed at the age of 36 in 2008. The oldest overall competitor is  Andy Probert, who coxed for Cambridge at 38 years old in 1992.

The race will take place on the River Thames on April 7th 2012.


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