Jo Matthews

Club: CUBC

Height: 179cm

School: City of London Freemen’s School

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2018

How have you coped this year?

Even amongst all the uncertainty of this season, we know that we will be back for next year, so all of our training was never at risk of going to waste. Every lockdown was just an opportunity to focus on a different aspect of our training and come out from it stronger than before.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

We had regular calls with the whole squad and did all of our ergs on Zoom, so we felt very connected. Our coxed pieces on the erg were really great for this as well because you really knew that everyone was in the exact same situation as you, and it did almost feel like we were in a boat sometimes!

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

I actually enjoyed lockdown training a lot which was very different to what I expected. It was really satisfying seeing progress in the test ergs we did, and I have come out of lockdown feeling stronger and faster than I ever have before.

What was your lockdown training set up?

It wasn’t too bad but didn’t quite match up to the Goldie boathouse.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I always like to listen to music before a race, and just be around my teammates.

The biggest challenge?

I think for so long the lack of a timeline – not knowing when we would be rowing again, or when the Boat Race would be, or when we could even return to Cambridge, meant that we would get our hopes up that something was about to change, only to get disappointed when this didn’t happen. Trying to manage our expectations was really key to not losing energy when nothing was progressing.

The toughest session?

I find the really long, UT2 ergs to be the least enjoyable because they get so repetitive.

The best day, so far?

Trial VIIIs in 2020 was so great because it was our first race of the season and was a really good race considering we only had two weeks on the water to prepare.

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

It was really tough because it was so unexpected, and every single person who wasn’t able to return to training has worked just as hard as everyone else, so deserves to be back just as much. But we are also so grateful for the opportunity to get back on the water and training to win the Boat Race.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

The boathouse seems very empty without the rest of the squad, but we are trying to keep doing lots of calls with them to try and stay connected as one squad.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

Knowing that for all of lockdown we had been training for this moment was really rewarding. It was exciting not just to be rowing again but seeing some of the squad again and being back in Ely. I think that all of us had in the back of our minds that we were sad to not be together as an entire squad, but we know that we have to make the most of this opportunity for them.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

This is why we turn up to training every day.