- 05 October 2022
Her athletic potential had already been recognised before Carys Earl (Medicine 2021) took to the water for the first time at the Caius Boat Club freshers’ barbecue 12 months’ ago. Now she is a triallist for the Cambridge University Boat Club and in a programme which could lead to Great Britain selection.
Charlotte Richer, one of Carys’ teachers at Cherwell School in Oxford, encouraged her to join the school’s indoor rowing club, in part to fulfil criteria for the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award. Charlotte rowed as an undergraduate for the Cambridge University Boat Club and Carys’ athleticism was clear, having previously been displayed in cross-country running and rugby.
Carys competed at the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships, finishing ninth while in Year 11, but the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered Carys’ plans to join a rowing club in Oxford.
“I picked Caius because I knew it was good for Medicine and good for rowing. It was a no-brainer for me,” she says.
“The barbecue at the Boat Club was in the freshers’ timetable. That was really good, meeting people, going on the erg and going out on a boat – that was my first time. I really enjoyed it, liked the club and the facilities.”
Carys was selected in the first novice crew, training three or four times a week. But Tim Schmalz, the then coach, recognised her trajectory.
“It’s quite a big club and there were loads of new novices coming in. But I felt I was personally looked after, getting tips from a coach to improve,” she adds.
“From the sporting side I felt I was technically improving; when you start as a novice you improve quickly. But I also really enjoyed the whole environment across the whole club.”
Socially she enjoyed being part of the club. “I made good friends with postgrads and PhD students and I don’t think I’d have been able to have that opportunity otherwise,” she adds.
At the start of Lent Term the crews were selected and Carys was promoted into Caius’ W1 boat. She was performing strongly on the erg and recognised the need to improve technically. She was then encouraged to consider CUBC and spoke to Caian triallists Bronya Sykes (Archaeology 2019) and Vera Kunz (Chemistry PhD 2018/2020?). Bronya was CUBC Women’s President in 2021-22.
Carys adds: “I was also put in touch with Melissa Wilson, an international rower. She learnt to row at Caius, did CUBC and then rowed for the national squad. She gave me some really good advice.”
At the British Universities and Colleges Sports championships in spring 2022, Carys took part in an informal test with the British squad. So impressed were they by her performance, and her physical characteristics – she is 1.78 metres (5ft 10ins) – she was invited to join a student development programme. An invitation to Caversham National Centre in August followed, where Carys was taught how to scull – using two blades instead of a single one.
The British squad system was explained and Carys was able to speak to Olympians and aspiring Olympians. It is too early to say if Carys will join their ranks.
“It’s very hard to say at the moment,” she said.
“But there are a lot of people from the Cambridge Boat Club who have been through the trialling process. It’s a case of how much time I put into it and going through the process and seeing how far I can get.”
Balancing studying Medicine and rowing takes good time management. With 25 medics in her year at Caius, there is flexibility to change supervisions if needed, and Carys is grateful to her Director of Studies, supervisors and fellow medics for being accommodating.
She adds: “A big part of it is when you’re doing something make sure you’re focused on that thing, not thinking about something else. When you’re at the boat house you’re thinking about rowing; when you’re in the lecture or library, you’re only thinking about your academics.”
Carys’ rowing ambitions in 2022-23 are about self-improvement – she knows selection is out of her control so it would be unwise to target a place in a particular boat or event, such as the Boat Race.
She says: “I’m not ruling it out, but it’s not my main aim. My aim for this year is to try to develop myself as an athlete and performing as well as I can.”