Katarzyna Pilch

Club: CUBC

Height: 175cm

School: V Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace in Krakow, Poland

International rowing record:

- 4th at Junior European Championships 2014 in JW2-

- 6th at Youth Olympic Games 2014 in JW2-

- 12th at Junior World Championships 2014 in JW4-

- 9th at U23 World Championships 2016 in BW4-

Year you first started rowing: 2010

How have you coped this year?

This year has been very challenging. With everything that is happening in the world, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Something that has helped me cope with the difficulties is having a structure to my days and finding joy in simple things like going on walks or cooking. I am also trying to take it one day at a time, not put too much unnecessary pressure on myself, and stay in touch with my family in friends.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

We were able to build a strong team culture and having to face all the uncertainties might actually have brought us closer together than it could have been during a regular season. People on the team are very supportive and caring. Especially in lockdowns, everyone makes sure to reach out to each other and check-in on how people are doing. We keep each other accountable and stay connected, even when we are apart. We erg and do weights on Zoom, and while it isn’t the same as training together, it gives a strong sense of community.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

It was a process full of ups and downs. Yet, it made me feel fit and prepared. Erging as much as we did, allowed us to see the progress and build confidence as it provided us with a lot of data to refer to. Moreover, even though we were not on the water as much, we were still able to get a lot of coaching and make technical changes that will hopefully transfer into water speed. Besides, having all this land training makes us appreciate the time we have on the water even more, and we try to make every stroke count.

What was your lockdown training set up?

I erged in my backyard, in a patio between the garden and the trash bins. It was a pretty good setup as I had enough space to erg, and the ground was pretty even. But there wasn’t a roof overhead, so I was dependent on the weather. I tried to set up the tilt between the fences, but it did not hold up well. When it comes to doing weights, I did them in a room where my landlord has her home hair salon. It is a more spacious room than my bedroom, with enough floor space to exercise comfortably.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I make sure I follow my race day routine and listen to my race playlist. I try not to overthink it and focus on what I am doing at the moment instead of thinking too far ahead.

The biggest challenge?

Having to deal with all the uncertainties and being separated from the rest of the squad as not everyone is allowed back on the water.

The toughest session?

Fartlek!! But it is also the most fun session. I love speed work.

The best day, so far?

Trial VIIIs race day. It was just so exciting to race again. You could feel the positive energy in the air, and it felt like a fraction of normality. It was also my first time wearing the CUBC uniform, which has made this day even more special.

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

It has been the most challenging thing to deal with this season. Knowing that not everyone is allowed back on the water or when the Blondie and lightweight races will happen is just really sad and disappointing. Yet, I understand that this is how it has to be, and I am very grateful that the Boat Race is going to happen at all, considering the circumstances. The Boat Race has such a long-standing tradition and is a part of British culture and rowing culture in general. And the speed of the Blue Boat is a result of the work of the whole team, no matter who ends up selected for the race. It is how we support each other, how we push each other, how we take care of our health, how we follow the Covid protocols.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

It definitely is. Being separated from the rest of the squad has been the most challenging part of the campaign.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

It was amazing and I was so excited and happy. Being back reminded me why I love rowing. It made me appreciate every moment on the water even more. Every stroke, every movement.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

It has been a season full of uncertainties and challenges. Seeing the journey we went through and how close we became as a team is why I want us to win the Boat Race.

“I erged in my backyard, in a patio between the garden and the trash bins. When it comes to doing weights, I did them in a room where my landlord has her home hair salon.”