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By John Harkness
Boat Race winner Constantine Louloudis’ London 2012 dreams have been well documented. Having finished fourth in Senior Trials alongside Cambridge’s George Nash last month, a place in the first Rowing World Cup event of this year would be his by right. And having finished ahead of four current GB Internationals at those trials, a place at the Olympics would appear well within reach. But Louloudis already knows he will not have been selected in the World Cup squad announced the morning the Oxford Student goes to press. An OxStu sport exclusive? Not quite. Rather, with the event slap bang in the middle of term, he cannot commit to full time training and is not making himself available. ‘‘It doesn’t help my chances selection further down the line’’, he admits, ‘‘but next year if I choose to take a year out it obviously becomes a bit different and it’ll be purely performance-based.’’
As a result, Louloudis is looking forward to Summer Eights, having enjoyed the atmosphere at Torpids. It is with a smile that he clarifies that his place in the Trinity boat is still at the discretion of his college’s boat club, but it is hard to see them turning down his services. Not that any level of college rowing even gets vaguely close to preparing you for the Olympics, but was it ever suggested to him that he might prefer to apply for a college with a stronger boathouse? ‘‘Yes. By someone …’’ he pauses, and chuckles ‘‘ … at a different college’. Which one? ‘‘From these hallowed halls.’ Christ Church, that is. ‘‘But if I’m honest, Torpids and Summer Eights didn’t feature that highly in my choice.” Not with significantly bigger fish to fry.
The culture of Oxford rowing turns conversation towards infamous chat room Talkrowing.com. When asked if OUBC squad members read it, he says he doesn’t know. “But its certainly not something we talk about. It’s something that’s very strongly discouraged. At school we occasionally had issues with it.” Having won the prestigious ‘triple’ of Schools Head, National Schools and Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley in 2009 and again in 2010, as part of what has been described the greatest schoolboy crew of all time, he clearly knows how to deal with all the pressure and the banter and just get on with the task at hand. “My coach at school would never talk about winning, he’d just talk about producing the best performance you could and controlling everything you could.” While this clearly served him well, it was a refreshing change come Boat Race time. ‘We were in the nice position of knowing we shouldn’t really be underdogs, but the media said that we were and so there wasn’t that burden of expectation.”
That underdogs tag was indeed shown to be unjustified, with Oxford running out clear winners. So clear that stroke Simon Hislop declared the race to have been “fun after half way.” “We all enjoyed that quote”, Louloudis says. “And yes it was, but in the race you’ve always got to keep it in your head to keep going. Every now and then the word ‘win’ would creep into my mind and I would shut it back out.” On his Team 2012 biography though, Louloudis states his sporting ambition to be an Olympic Gold medal, so he’s clearly not afraid of talking about a desire to win. But just one Olympic Gold medal? He doesn’t laugh this off, but has clearly thought about it: “Well it depends how it works out: at this stage I may well try for the Olympics next year and with 2016 coming straight after I’d be finished, that would be convenient timing.” One piece of inconvenient timing is that as a Classics student, the dreaded Mods will, be it in 2012 or 2013, hit him just before the Boat Race. Would he do both in one year? ”Yes”. He doesn’t hesitate for a second.
He also doesn’t hesitate for a second when I ask him if he’s ever tempted to just have a “normal” student existence. “No. Well there are some times at 5am when it’s pretty grim, but there’s no way I’d sit back and just watch OUBC go by without me.” Given Louloudis’ undoubted ability and potential, it’s an attitude that should serve Oxford, and Great Britain, very well indeed.
Constantine Louloudis talks winning, losing, rowing and more on the Three Points podcast at oxfordstudent.com/sport