Phyllis Chan

Club CUBC Men

Year of Birth 1999

Hometown Hong Kong

Nationality British

College Sidney Sussex College

Undergrad/Graduate Masters

Year 4th

What are you studying? World History

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? The most interesting part of my course is definitely the research part. I really enjoy the process of developing and building a research project and being able to visit archives across the UK and abroad. Discovering new information in archives and presenting this to others can feel really rewarding. Listening to other graduate students present their research has also been really illuminating; Cambridge is home to some quite wide-ranging and fascinating work. Following my MPhil I intend to take a year out to work and do some intensive language study in written Chinese and Japanese before I apply for a PhD.

Future ambitions? Getting a novel or academic work published would be amazing. I write a lot in my free time, but because of my course and training schedule I haven’t really had the time to develop anything for submission.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I don’t really have a strategy. I guess if you want to do well in both you just have to get it done somehow. In terms of commitment I think as long as you really enjoy something you can make it work.

When did you start rowing, and why? I signed up during Freshers Week at Cambridge, just out of pure curiosity as I’d never rowed or really realised it was a sport before, as it’s not very common where I come from. I got the sense it was a big tradition here and I was curious about that aspect of it.

What was your first club? Sidney Sussex Boat Club.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Cambridge? Definitely the coaching. I’ve never had a professional coach before - that isn’t to say my old coaches weren’t amazing in terms of the work they put in for next to nothing - so it was a big change. (I also like the Empachers.)

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I noviced in 2017 and then coxed the Sidney first men’s and women’s VIIIs throughout my undergraduate years. Trialling itself is probably my biggest achievement. Most of the guys have a lot more experience than me, so it’s cool to be able to say I’m part of the club.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? No.

Your favourite race so far? Because of the pandemic we haven’t raced this year, but more generally I have a soft spot for bumps. One year we bumped up right outside a pub full of spectators and it was an incredible feeling.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? Not really, though I check my bag and equipment multiple times before I leave (I’ve forgotten equipment before and been fined for it!).

Your sporting idol? Nadia Comaneci.

If you could have any sportsperson in your crew, who would it be? Can I say the O’Donovan brothers? I feel like they’d make sessions a lot of fun.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? I usually carry a small chocolate bar in my pocket for when it gets really cold. Having a good laugh between sessions is also important. Things can get quite intense and grounding myself is key for my mental health.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? I like riding and ice skating. In a normal year I’d go snowboarding in the winter. I can also read a novel cover to cover in about a day, but for some reason it takes me ten times the time to read anything academic.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? Focusing on little everyday improvements and changes that really affect the boat and the crew. You want to feel every session has meant something in the long run. I like to write down things that work and things that don’t, and try to implement or avoid them in the next session so I have something I’m aiming for.