Rower Maxie Scheske is aiming to lead Oxford University to victory in the Women’s Boat Race this weekend, and be a defending champion when the event moves to her home water next year.
Scheske, 20, who grew up in St Margarets, was in the stroke seat as Oxford beat Cambridge last year and is president of the dark blue crew in Sunday’s contest in Henley-on-Thames.
Next year the women’s race will join the men’s event on the tidal Thames in London, taking place over the same course on the same day and sharing TV coverage watched by five million viewers.
“Over the last two years we’ve always known there’s a greater goal, that the 2015 race is going to be what everyone’s watching,” said Scheske, a former Great Britain junior international.
“But we’re really seeing this year on its own. We just want to come out on top, and hopefully have confidence to build on for next year.
“We’ve got a really strong crew dynamic and we’re really ready to put everything on the line when it comes to it.”
Scheske’s parents are German but she holds dual nationality, having moved to the UK at the age of 10.
She learnt to row at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith – whose boat house is in the middle of the Boat Race course – then moved to Tideway Scullers School, the club that sits on the race finish line in Chiswick.
Scheske has won medals for Great Britain at the Coupe de la Jeunesse – the European Junior Championships – and last year at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
After the announcement in 2012 that the women’s race would gain parity with the men – thanks to sponsors Newton Investment Management – the two squads have gradually built up their training and infrastructure.
“When I applied to Oxford I was unsure whether I would go because the rowing wasn’t as good as other universities,” said Scheske, whose coach Christine Wilson moved to Oxford from the US Olympic squad.
“The sponsorship deal has made a massive difference to my rowing; it really allowed me to step on when I went to Oxford.”
This year the two crews held trial races and formal fixtures against club crews on the Tideway for the first time and Scheske said: “It’s absolutely incredible.
“I’ve rowed on the course for so many years and I always saw the Oxford crews coming past in training and racing. It was always so impressive and the chance to actually be part of it is amazing.
“Doing trial eights and fixtures has been a really great taste of how exciting it can be. There’s so much public attention to it – it’s really special.”
Scheske is one of two returnees from the Oxford crew that won last year and is part of a line-up featuring seven different nationalities.
In contrast Cambridge feature an all-British line-up – most of whom learned to row at the university – including five rowers and cox Esther Momcilovic from last year’s crew.
Follow live text commentary on the Newton Women’s Boat Race on 30 March at 3pm, and the BNY Mellon Boat Race on 6 April at 5.55pm at theboatrace.org
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