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October 18, 2017

Interview with Douwe De Graaf

Upper Eight pupil shares his experiences of winning Gold in the Junior World Championships.

Q1.         Douwe, congratulations on your victory in the Junior World Championships! Tell us about your experience of the selection process for the GB team.

The GB trials system is always a long and painful one. Starting with singles racing in November and finishing with ‘final trials’ in June, you have to consistently perform throughout the year. Initially there was a crowd of almost 150 boys at the first trials which I remember being slightly daunting. However, as this group slowly got smaller and smaller as the trials progressed I got increasingly confident that I could represent GB in the summer. By the time of final trials, I had been raced against countless other boys and was currently either 2nd or 3rd on stroke side (much higher than I had initially thought in November) . I was then seat raced on the first day at these trials against my main competitor and managed to take the win – guaranteeing my place in the GB coxless four. Overall a long, but satisfying result to the trials process.

Q2.         How were you feeling going out to Lithuania?

As we were heading out to Lithuania, the whole four was feeling pretty confident. We had put down some fast times during our practice runs at Caversham so we were all excited to show this speed to the world. Obviously nerves were also a huge factor as the reality of racing at the World Championships was beginning to sink in. We were also almost completely unaware of where the competition would come from – which added another element of suspense to the whole event.
Q3.         What was it like being at the Junior World Championships?
Arriving at the Junior World Championships in Lithuania was a great feeling. Seeing boats and crews from across the world – each with their own national colours and flags – was a truly amazing sight. The racing was on a beautiful lake and compared to the murky waters of the Thames I had raced on over the year, it was a nice change. It was also a very strange feeling being one of the shortest people there, when usually I would consider myself quite tall.
Q4.         What were the highlights and lowlights of the whole experience for you?

The main highlight of the Championships obviously has to be the moment we crossed the line in our final and took the gold medal for GB. It was great feeling and hugely satisfying after all the practice we had put in. Despite this, it didn’t mean things were always great on our trip. I remember being almost sick with nerves before my final race!
Q5.         What are your hopes and aims for this season coming?

For this coming season, I’m really hoping that we can try win Henley. After coming so close against Scotch College from Australia last year I think we all have that extra hunger to win it this year. I’m also hoping that I can win a Gold medal again for GB at the 2018 World Championships.

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