3 MIN READ TIME

Megan Stoker

Club: OUWBC

Height: 174cm

School: University of Bath

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2011

How have you coped this year?

Simply by having the team alongside me. We all feel the pressure and worry about the uncertainties but knowing you’re in it together and having other people to talk to certainly helped me to cope.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

I would say the strength of our team has really grown stronger during the virtual training. It’s hard not to see your teammates in person for training but there’s very much a sense of unity for all of us going through such a hard time together, and we all made even more of an effort to support one another throughout which kept team morale up and helped this process of building team culture.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

Physically, the land training was as hard as expected (i.e. very hard) but mentally it felt far worse. You would think without the early, cold mornings training would feel easier right? But we all really missed the water since it’s the part we love most and having to push yourself to the limit behind closed doors with no one else around you both in training and for erg tests is very challenging.

What was your lockdown training set up?

My lockdown setup was simply the erg and weights in the living room of my student house, sweating out my entire body weight which wasn’t pleasant and trying not to train too early in the morning so as not to wake up my housemates. The view was a wall (very exciting) but what was worse was running out of playlists to listen to with such extensive indoor training.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I have my own race day habits, for example what I eat, when and certain warm up habits which I’ve developed over my time competing and know work for me to help me perform at my best which takes some stress out of the day. Otherwise, I just consciously try to think of those nerves as excitement and adrenaline which helps pump me up rather than bring me down.

The biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge would definitely be the lack of water time. When we would usually have 3 months to prepare, we now have 3 weeks to get used to sweeping again so the intensity and the pressure has stepped up as we count down to April 4th. Also going from 3 months of monotony in isolation to being in the boat with lots of people, being coached, having BBC interviews has been mentally draining so it has been a shock to the system being back.

The toughest session?

VO2 max intervals on the erg. My housemates fear for my life on those days.

The best day, so far?

I would say Trial VIIIs day was perhaps the most enjoyable day for me. Having the opportunity to race each other on the Boat Race course in our dark blue kit was very exciting (despite some windy conditions) and the road trip back to Oxford in the minibus is always good fun for the social.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

It was tough not to get to return to rowing with the full squad, particularly as some of my best friends this year are in good stead for the Osiris boat, but there’s a mutual understanding between us all that it’s all for our own safety and the rest of the squad have been extremely supportive in our return to rowing.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

It definitely feels strange returning to rowing with such a small squad, when usually we would have both eights out pushing against one another. The water is very quiet.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

It was truly fantastic, and we are extremely grateful to British Rowing and the university for granting us permission to return early. Although it’s hard on the hands getting the blisters back, it makes it worth all the erging to return fit and strong. I don’t think I’ve ever grinned so much in a boat than our first session back being sat in the eight.

Why do you want to beat Cambridge?

As the 75th Women’s Boat Race and on Cambridge’s home water, it would be a very special win for Oxford and one which would be well deserved as we have all worked extremely hard for this in an already very challenging year.


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