Elena Williams

Club CUBC Women

Year of Birth 1996

Hometown Monmouth

Nationality British

College Emmanuel

Undergrad/Graduate PhD

Year 1st

What are you studying? Biological Sciences at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans for after? My project is investigating cellular heterogeneity in a brain region responsible for sensory-motor integration, orienting and the internal representation of the 3D environment. I love working in experimental neuroscience because there is so much about the way our brain functions that we don’t understand.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? Early mornings and a shower at the lab. I keep a full change of clothes in my desk drawer so that I can cycle straight there from the train after mornings in Ely.

When did you start rowing, and why? I started at school, at the end of year eight (Spring 2009). We were really lucky to have our club situated in the Wye Valley (AONB) and I fell in love with the river and the sport.

What was your first club? Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls Rowing Club (HMSGRC).

What is your favourite part of rowing for Cambridge? It’s pretty amazing training with such an impressive group of women - juggling the program with a whole range of degrees and graduate studies. There are a few of us studying neurobiology in slightly different forms and it’s been really cool chatting about that.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I rowed through school, where we won gold and silver in J16 and champ eights respectively at Schools Head, and bronze and silver respectively in the J16 and champ eights at the National Schools Regatta, as well as racing in the women’s at Henley and the Home International Regatta for Wales. During my undergrad I rowed for Bath University, was senior women’s captain in my second year and rowed briefly for Circolo Canottieri Roma while on placement in Rome. I then spent a year with Cambridge 99s, then the 2019-20 season up to March with Cantabrigian, where I won gold at Pairs Head in the Intermediate 2x with women’s captain Ellie Darlington, an Oxford Blue. Sadly the rest of the season wasn’t to be, then I began with CUBC when I started my degree this Autumn.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? If yes, when? No.

Your favourite race so far? This year when WEHORR was cancelled (due to weather, not the pandemic) the coaches from Cantabs pulled together a last minute match against our closest opposition for the provincial pennant. Though the day was tough with the 6.30 cancellation and then racing on the London Docks in some pretty wild conditions, we had a brilliant time and it meant that we had some conclusion to our season.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? I have a pair of lucky socks, they are pink with sparkly dinosaurs on them.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? I am a serial counter - I count the strokes as I take them, in lots of 10 or 15, or sometimes it’s rate dependent. I try to have a small focus point for each set. I’ve done 5k pieces where I have counted every stroke. (I’m a nightmare for a cox if we have a session with set numbers of strokes, because if they miscount I will know about it.)

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? I do a PhD! I try to get out on my roadbike as much as I can, that was a silver lining of the lockdown for me - the roads were very clear.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? Just trying to keep things moving a day at a time, we’re all in it together in the end.