Jean-Philippe Dufour

Club: OUBC

Height: 192cm

School: University of Zurich

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2015

How have you coped this year?

I came back after the disappointment of the race cancellation last year with the only goal of winning the race and doing whatever it takes to achieve that. It wasn’t hugely inspiring having to erg in my room for months on end, not knowing if or when we were going to race, but it never crossed my mind to back off –I was going to see this through no matter what happens. It is my last chance in life to do sports at a high level and I decided to enjoy it as much as possible and give it all I had either way.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

There weren’t many athletes who stayed in Oxford during the lockdowns, but keeping in contact with the ones who did helped me remind myself that I wasn’t doing all this just for a good erg score. There were a few weeks where the team chat was rather quiet, but I knew everybody was training hard and when we were allowed back to squad training the team culture developed very quickly. There is a sizeable group of returning athletes, and the new athletes were quickly integrated. I am sure we will make up for the social time we missed as soon as it is allowed.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

At first, I enjoyed it. Spending a lot of time on the erg meant I progressed and saw some PBs. I tried to stay positive about it and make the most out of each session, and I think overall it wasn’t as bad as I expected – it’s boring for my opposite man too, so we might as well get on with it.

What was your lockdown training set up?

I have my erg just next to my bed, which is where I did most of my training during the lockdowns. This got very old very quickly, but luckily I have quite a nice view out of my bedroom window onto Christchurch tower.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I back myself and everybody in my crew to dig deep and never give up no matter what, so I just tell myself to row as well and as hard as I possibly can. That is all I can do, and there’s not much use in worrying about what your opposition is going to do when you can’t control it.

The biggest challenge?

Trying to stay positive about the season when we didn’t know if we would even race.

The toughest session?

I can’t recall a specific session, but there have been a fair few hard ones – doing them in the boat with the guys around you definitely makes it a lot easier.

The best day, so far?

Getting to row in March again was one of the happiest days of my rowing career.

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

Selection is always very tough and nobody’s seat is safe, but that’s something we all agree upon when we turn up in September. Nobody will roll over and give somebody else his seat, and that elevates the level of the whole squad. The Blue Boat is the priority of course, but every athlete wants to beat Cambridge no matter what boat he rows in at the end. I have a lot of sympathy for the athletes who have not been selected and now have to continue erging, but I’m sure they will line up against Cambridge soon enough.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

As the race approaches, the eights train separately during normal years too, so in that sense it isn’t too different. The main difference is the lack of social time we spend together as whole squad.

How did it feel getting back on the water?


Why do you want to beat Cambridge?

They were lucky the race was cancelled last year because I genuinely believe we would have won. This year we will make up for that on their home ground. I cannot wait.