A student from Ilkeston has taken part in the prestigious Newton Women’s Boat Race as part of a team representing Cambridge University.
Jessica Denman, 21, competed at Eton Dorney in Buckinghamshire on Sunday but despite her crew’s best efforts it was rivals Oxford University who took the honours .
A former pupil at Cotmanhay School and latterly Heanor Gate Science College, Jessica is now in the final year of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Science at Clare College, Cambridge.
And despite being on the losing team, Jessica says it was a great, if somewhat chilly, experience to take part in.
She said: “The wind chill factor was about minus six degrees so conditions were pretty tough, but we rowed really well and couldn’t have done any more.”
The race came at the end of a tough training regime for Jessica, who took up rowing during her first year at Cambridge and progressed through the selection process to earn a place in Sunday’s race.
“We’ve trained twice a day, seven days a week since October,” she added.
“That includes going out at 6am to train on the water in the mornings and then afternoon sessions in the gym.
“We have a coach who really works us hard and even during our time off at Christmas we had to enrol at a gym so there was no let off!
“We spent a week training in Henley-on-Thames before the race, which was originally where it was due to take place before weather conditions meant it had to be moved to the Olympic venue at Eton Dorney.
“So we had some adjustments to make but always believed we could win despite being up against a more experienced Oxford crew.
“We had a brilliant start and led for a good distance but in the end Oxford overtook us, and even though we felt helpless seeing them inching away when we had nothing more to give, it was still worth all the effort given we did the best we could on the day.”
Jessica, who was cheered on at Eton Dorney by her twin sister Melissa and parents Perry and Angela, now hopes to help the team to success in the British University Championships in May, whilst also studying for her final exams.
She added: “I’d like to continue rowing in the future but it might depend where I end up working. Career will come first but it’s been a great experience.”
The men’s Boat Race is scheduled for this weekend but from 2015 the two events will take place on the same day.