Dara Alizadeh

Club CUBC Men

Year of Birth 1993

Hometown Brookline, MA

Nationality British, Bermudian, American, Iranian

College Hughes Hall

Undergrad/Graduate Undergraduate

Year 3rd

What are you studying? Education Policy

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? I enjoy many things about my studies, but perhaps the two things I enjoy most are the policy implications of state actors, and the opportunities for data analysis. I would like to pursue further data science after this degree.

Future ambitions? To compete in the Olympics and maybe write a book.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I start by looking broadly, establishing and recording deadlines, as well as personal goals. Then I look at what I’d like to accomplish each month towards those goals and deadlines. I break it down into weeks, where more immediate deadlines like essays and supervisions come into play. Each Sunday evening and Monday, when we don’t have sessions, I recap the week and look ahead to the next week, ensuring that I take the time to make sure everything is in place for me to get my work done. After that, it’s just discipline baby!

When did you start rowing, and why? 2008 because I was tall and was wrestling at the time, and my high school rowing coach said I’d be pretty good if I gave rowing a shot. I tried it out and was pretty good, so I just kept doing it.

What was your first club? The Belmont Hill School.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Cambridge? The primary thing is winning; if that’s not your main focus as a club and individual, you’ve lost the plot. Specifically for Cambridge, the history behind this place and the Boat Race itself. It’s one of the last great amateur events, and people still seem to care about it.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I’ve done 12 years of rowing, four years at UPenn, USA U23 eight silver, Boat Race Winner 2018 and 2019. My biggest achievement has probably been winning the 2019 race as President.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? If yes, when? In 2018 and 2019.

Your favourite race so far? 2018.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? Breathing exercises. Listening to my body and mood, letting that dictate my behavior. If I want to listen to music, ok, but if not, that’s fine too, so it’s fairly liquid.

Your sporting idol? Tom Brady.

If you could have any sportsperson in your crew, who would it be? Natan.

What gets you through a tough session?

Do you have a mantra, rituals? Mental conditioning: you realise it’s not so bad, and perhaps more importantly you can keep going. Take a few deep breaths, and get to the next marker. Just think: all I need to do is get to the next marker, X meters. If I die, I die. And sometimes you do, but often you’ll find you’re actually OK, and when you realise that, you break through a wall and get some confidence and energy back. Constantly practise making the decision to be brave and resilient. Practise makes permanent.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? Reading non-fiction, video games, travel, saxophone. I’ve started reading a lot of non-fiction; I tend to enjoy books about mindset, or bios about titans of industry, whether it’s a successful coach, team, or business mogul, what their strategies and principles are, how they frame their world, and get others around them to raise their game. Also learning cool mental tricks for productivity and thinking.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? I want to win, and I remind them that they want to win. Much like the Boat Race, X factors affect everyone, and whatever is happening is not going to stop you: how you respond to it will determine your fate. At the end of the day, if you don’t respond proactively and find solutions, no one is going to care why you didn’t succeed, even if it’s not your ‘fault’, and YOU are the loser. There is always a solution, and once you find it, then it’s just a matter of (to quote the IRA legend Fred Schoch) ‘Who wants it??’