P.E.I.'s Emily Cameron to row for Oxford in famed boat race in England

Emily Cameron, of Summerside, P.E.I., has landed a seat in England's famous Oxford-Cambridge race, known simply as The Boat Race.

An estimated 250,000 spectators watch the annual men's and women's race from the banks of the Thames River, with millions more watching on television around the world.

"To be honest, I didn't realize what a big deal it was until I got here," said Cameron.

"There are helicopters, there's live coverage in every pub across the U.K., it's quite the spectacle."

The spectacle started with the official crew announcements and weigh-ins today, broadcast live on television and online.

"It was exciting, but surreal," said Cameron.

"You know you're standing up there on the stage and you're in your spandex unisuit, being weighed in on television."

Silver medal on her resume

Cameron moved to Oxford in the fall of 2016 to pursue a master's degree in public policy.

She retired from Canada's national rowing team in June 2016 after six years competing internationally, including a World Championship silver medal for Canada in 2013.

Despite lots of international experience, Cameron admits being in The Boat Race is different.

"The fact is there's way more hype around this race than there is around world championships," she said.

"We don't talk a lot about the competition between the two teams on a day to day basis but it's something that we're very aware of."

'This is colossal'

Cameron is the first woman, and possibly the first rower from Prince Edward Island, to compete in the big race, as far as locals can recall.

"This is colossal," said Daphne Dumont, a member of Rowing P.E.I. and a graduate of Oxford. Dumont rowed at Oxford, but not in The Boat Race.

"People from all over the world try to make this crew, people come to study at Oxford in order to make this crew," said Dumont.

A challenging race

Dumont also points to the nature of the The Boat Race, compared to other rowing competitions.

"The race is not the standard Olympic course, it's 22 pounding minutes along the tidal waterway in the middle of  London," said Dumont.

"It is wavy, boats have sunk in this race, often it's so exhausting that people are barely conscious when they cross the line."

Cameron is enjoying all of the traditions associated with the Oxford-Cambridge competition. This year's event on Sunday April 2 will mark the 163rd Boat Race and 72nd Women's Boat Race.

"One of the things we just learned about is that the women don't smile, we're all about the game face, hair back, no smiles, minimal make-up, look as fierce as possible," explained Cameron.

"You realize how many traditions have happened over the last 140 years of this race between Cambridge and Oxford and it's exciting to be part of it."

Family will be there

At 34, Emily Cameron is the oldest athlete in this year's Boat Race. Her parents, Scott and Susan, are heading from Summerside to London to watch the race. 

"We've been told about how noisy it is, how there are so many people and so many potential distractions but I'm used to racing," said Cameron.

"I'm not even sure I'll notice that there are that many people once the pain really starts to set in."

Last year, the Oxford women won by 24 lengths, with the Cambridge boat almost sinking in rough waters.

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