Meet Daphne Martschenko, President of Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club

Cambridge University’s Daphne Martschenko took part in the 2015 and 2016 Women’s Boat Races and will be in the Blondie crew this year


CUWBC President Daphne Martschenko (c) Naomi Baker

What’s it like to row in the Cancer Research UK Boat RaceDaphne Martschenko tells Martin Gough about her experiences.

MG: The first time you took part in the Boat Race, what was the biggest surprise for you about the event?
DM: My first Boat Race was truly unlike anything else. I had never taken part in a rowing event with so many spectators and it was an honour to be part of the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway. The whole year we’d talked about what an historic moment it was going to be, but I don’t think it really sank in for me until we pulled our bus up on the day of the race and I saw how transformed Putney was.

As an athlete, how much of the TV pageantry and the crowds do you notice on race day?
I notice the crowds the most when we arrive in our mini bus pre-race. Once we get inside Thames RC and do our race prep and warm up on the ergos, all the noise and chaos of outside melts away. You become internal; fixed only on yourself and the eight other women in that boat with you.

I’m an African-American woman and I hope I am able to inspire people of colour to see themselves rowing

How did you feel about the coverage and the public response to the events of the 2016 race, when Cambridge almost sank?
It was overwhelming. The 2016 Boat Race was truly devastating for me. It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened, and to even be able to watch the entire race through from start to finish. We had so much support in the days and weeks after the race, which really showed how strong the Boat Race community is. While we may be divided by our Light Blue or Dark Blue affiliation, I think everyone came together that day to will us across that finish line.

Is there anything about the TV coverage that makes life more difficult for you as an athlete?
For me personally, no. I think TV coverage is a great opportunity to showcase the sport of rowing and to give young women around the world a glimpse into the lives of other women who are engaged in a sport they once were told wasn’t suitable for their temperaments. I’m an African-American woman and I hope I am able to inspire people of colour to see themselves rowing.

This article first appeared in Rowing & Regatta magazine.