Sitting in the two seat of OUWBC’s Blue Boat is former US lightweight Christine Cavallo. Cavallo, 26, is a Stanford alumni and represented USRowing at the 2018 and 2019 World Rowing Championships, and trialed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic team but just missed selection for the lightweight double. Ahead of making her Boat Race debut Cavallo shares her experiences as a student-athlete at Oxford and her love of the sport.
I got injured doing everything else! I played soccer for a long time and I was also into gymnastics, cross-country, and track and field. It was a soccer injury that took me out. I was not allowed to do any lateral movements or contact sports but I was still very competitive and so the doctors gave me a choice between rowing or swimming. I decided I’d rather be above the water than below it. I went to a learn-to-row camp and have not looked back since.
I love it; Oxford challenges me in all the aspects of life that I find meaningful. I get a buzz from rowing at Oxford but the challenges come from a lot of places beyond the boat club, which I think is a rare environment to find in life. But at the moment the only thing I am thinking about is the Boat Race on April 3rd and everything else feels blurred out and faded into the distance for these weeks. I have no idea what is going to happen April 4th onwards, but that’s how I approach racing. It is pretty black and white and I’m taking it one day at a time. the big goal is approaching fast.
Favourite place to row?
Travelling the world via rowing has been fantastic. The number of places I’ve been able to row since taking up the sport has been one of the best things about rowing, but nothing beats home! I love my home training course in Vermont.
That’s a hard one because most of my big rowing success were not actually my best races. I enjoyed the whole of the 2021 season including Olympic trials and the summer nationals. I lost Olympic trials and it was low stakes at the summer nationals but that was some of the best racing I’ve ever done. Although the result or the race itself was not the best result or the highest stage, I felt I was in my best form as an athlete (so far) and delivered in terms of technique and race execution. The summer nationals were the qualifiers for the 2021 World Rowing Championship but it got cancelled.
That would be in 2014 during my freshman year of college. We [Stanford lightweights] were leading the final of the IRAs by a boat length but then I passed out with 150 meters to go and we got rowed through and finished in second place. Luckily the race photographers kindly scrubbed their photos from the internet!
When I’m racing I don’t feel the pain in the same way that I would on an erg. It can also be a weakness because I can overcook it as per the 2014 IRAs. I will outperform in a team boat versus what I feel I can do on my own, which is a good multiplier. Sometimes I’ll lose in practice but win against the same person in a race. When I race, I am all in. I’d much rather have that calibration and lose a couple of steady state paddles here and there but perform well on race day.
What would you like to be better at?
Steady state. [Laughs.]
Favourite training session?
I love three minute pieces. Any number of three minute pieces in a workout is great by me. I love it, sign me up.
2x6k. If you want to know my real nightmare, it’s those people willing to row across oceans on two hour shifts. But I would never put myself in a position to attempt that, so let’s stick with 2x6k.
Best piece of advice?
That’s got to be the advice I received from my college coach, Kate Bertko. It led me to continue my rowing beyond college and onto the world stage. I was uncertain as to whether I was capable of stepping up after college she told me: You have to fall off the edge to know exactly where it is.