Louis Mahon


Year of Birth 1994

Hometown Dublin

Nationality Irish

College Linacre

Undergrad/Graduate PhD

Year First

What are you studying? Computer Science

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? I’m researching AI and machine learning, specifically deep learning and clustering. I probably want to stay in academia when I’m finished, though I seem to change my mind every few months so it’s hard to know what I’ll think when I have to make the decision.

Future ambitions? To become a professor, or maybe a writer.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I literally do nothing but the two.

When did you start rowing, and why? I started back in 2012, though I gave up in 2015 and, at the time, didn’t ever see myself returning. Rowing is the one endurance sport that actually suits my body type.

What was your first club? Dublin University Boat Club.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Oxford? The erg tests. This is partially a joke, of course they are painful and part of me dreads them. But I do find it very satisfying to be able to turn a solid period of training into a solid number on the erg. I like how objective they are, they leave no room for excuses. I like how you get immediate feedback on your performance, and I like how they require you to be honest with yourself as to the shape you’re in. You have to continually check in with your body, to see if your current pace is too ambitious and you need to back off, or not ambitious enough meaning you need to push on.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I suppose winning the Irish University Championships, but I’ve done very little really.

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

Your sporting idol? Josh Waitzkin. He was a child chess prodigy, the subject of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer and competed internationally as a grand master through his teens. He then took up martial arts and became Taiji Push Hands world champion in 2004. As far as I know, he is unique in achieving world-class standard at a mental as well as a physical discipline. The challenge of doing both is not unlike that posed by the Boat Race. I also admire Josh’s attitude toward sports. He is proof that it is possible to be a world-class performer without resorting to ego or hatred of the opponent. Instead, he manages to have a much wiser engagement with sport, and to use it as a tool for self-exploration and growth.

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

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? Rowing makes it hard to find time for them at the moment, but there are many other things I enjoy doing. I started singing in a cathedral in Dublin when I was a boy and did so semi-professionally as a man for several years. I also sang in a band, a barbershop quartet and many other less regular groups. As a listener of music, I enjoy orchestral and piano music as much as choral. I really look forward to live performances again once Oxford’s Sheldonian reopens. Another practice I have taken very seriously in the past is meditation. For a couple of years I was meditating 2-3hrs a day, and I’ve been on a number of 10-day silent retreats. I still meditate every day, but now only for 30-40 minutes. I care a lot about animals and have been a vegan for five years. When I first started I was worried I’d lose strength, and this dissuaded me from doing so for a year or two. As it turned out, the opposite seemed to happen, I felt leaner, more energetic and just as strong.