Freya Billinghurst


Year of Birth 2000

Hometown Morillon, France

Nationality English

College St Anne’s

Undergrad/Graduate Undergraduate

Year 2nd

What are you studying? BA Jurisprudence

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of law which requires a balance of pragmatic and academic approaches. I intend to pursue a career in commercial law as a solicitor.

Future ambitions? Outside a career in law, I would love to take part in endurance races and challenges in different countries. Running was my main sport before rowing, and is where I would start, but I would also enjoy competing in cycling and cross-country skiing. However, I draw the line at going anywhere with really extreme temperatures.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I have learnt to prioritise the reading which is relevant to each week’s essay and am trying to make sure that I am focused and working efficiently. Although this part can be difficult depending on how tough the day’s sessions were. I also try to get ahead on work in the vacations.

When did you start rowing, and why? I started rowing at college level with St Anne’s in my first year at Oxford because my friends convinced me to come along to a taster session. Rowing is definitely a huge part of the culture in Oxford so it was probably inevitable that I would try it at some point. I’m very glad that I did because I have met amazing people through it and the training has taught me a lot about myself and how to work towards short- and long-term goals.

What was your first club? St Anne’s.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Oxford? Being able to train alongside driven and talented women is hugely motivating, and I appreciate how we all support each other in balancing rowing with academic and other commitments. I also enjoy how holistic the training program set by our coaches is. Working towards such an eminent race really gives a sense of purpose that positively impacts other aspects of my life.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I learnt to row in October 2019 but spent most my time on the erg due to bad weather preventing college rowing and the year being cut short due to Covid. I did OUW’s virtual development squad programme over the summer but the on-water training in pre-season was a steep learning curve. However, I really enjoyed the challenge, and it has been great fun seeing myself progress in both skill and strength over the last few months. Of course, learning has been made much easier by being around incredibly experienced rowers and by the coaches who are so supportive and encouraging.

Your sporting idol? Growing up in the Alps meant that winter sports were very prevalent in day-to-day life for half of the year. Lindsey Vonn was a huge influence because I really admire the way she persevered through numerous injuries to become the most successful American and most decorated female alpine skier.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? Running was my main sport before I started rowing and I still especially love going on long runs with my dog (the sportier of the two of us) because it means I get to explore lots of different places. This is especially true when I attend orienteering events with OUOC and my map-reading tends to lead me astray. More recently I have discovered that painting is an even better way to relax than yoga and so try to split my spare time between the two.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? A good playlist. Otherwise, a pandemic can really put things in perspective so I think we feel grateful to be able to train in whatever way official guidelines allow us to. Training during lockdown was challenging but doing sessions over Zoom and checking in with teammates kept a sense of normality going. In general, I think celebrating small successes and improvements is a great way to maintain a sense of momemtum in the training.