Anja Zehfuss


Height: 183cm

School: Stanford University

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2012

How have you coped this year?

One thing I enjoy about rowing is the linear progression to race day; generally, your output is directly correlated with the amount of work you’ve put in over the training period. One of the difficult parts of this year was the uncertainty surrounding racing and training. I coped with it by realizing almost everything was out of my control. All I can do is keep the day-to-day as simple as I can.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

I was lucky in that I was able to train with the team for the duration of the fall, so I had a solid base of friends and support from the team. The winter was more difficult as I was in California so wasn’t able to do many of the Zoom workouts with the team because of the time difference. Picking up training again and seeing the friends that I’ve been keeping in contact with via text has been lovely.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

Honestly isolated ergs suck. If anyone tells you differently, they are probably lying or nuts. The land training in and of itself was not horrible but having to test on my own was a unique challenge. I have now erg tested in multiple car parks around the US and UK to the shock of random passers-by, which is not a situation I ever thought I’d find myself in.

What was your lockdown training set up?

I was quite lucky in my lockdown training setup in the US. Unlike a lot of my teammates, I had a lot of space and I was able to train outside (lots of running and hiking) throughout. Weirder moments included creative use of bricks as weights and getting noise complaints for erging on a balcony. I was extremely lucky to have generous friends (and family) who trained with me and probably let me overstay my welcome.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

Race day nerves happen to everyone. I think about the body of work that I have completed to get me to this point and that tends to take the edge off.

The biggest challenge?

For me it’s been the uncertainty. I was not sure when we would be allowed to row on the water again, so I didn’t know when I would be going back to Oxford. That threw me for a loop for a bit as I didn’t know how to frame my training.

The toughest session?

The toughest session we do has got to be predominantly arms only tech rows. Jokes, I am probably sworn to secrecy here.

The best day, so far?

The day I got back on the water this spring was probably top 3. It was my first day post quarantine back in Oxford, so good to see the whole team, and Martha and I got to spend it in a pair.

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

I was surprised by that decision. It was very difficult to watch teammates on our team Zoom process the announcement. It is evident that we are missing members of the team and it makes the training environment quite different.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

Absolutely. The competition between eights is what drives speed, so to have some of that taken away has been a challenge as well. Not to mention the difference in atmosphere and missing friends.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

A massive relief. I had been sculling in the US, so I had some access to rowing on the water, but paddling around in a single is not the same as doing race pieces in the eight. I was so excited to see Andy and James and get to work that some of my teammates laughed at me.

Why do you want to beat Cambridge?

It would be the culmination of a lot of hard work. I am excited to finally race and get to demonstrate some of the grit that we’ve developed from our kitchen and car park ergs. I also really respect my teammates, so I am looking forward to sitting at the starting line and facing off against Cambridge with them.