Old Canfordian Anastasia Chitty is President of the Oxford Women’s Boat Club, which rowed to victory in the 2015 Women’s Boat Race – the 70th Women’s race, and the first to be held on the same day and over the same Tideway course as the Men’s contest. Anastasia’s distinguished school rowing career, meanwhile, included a victory at the National Schools Regatta and a brace of silver medals
âž¡ What are your memories of the sports coaching at Canford?
It struck a great balance – relaxed, yet of a very high quality. I never felt that I was being pushed too much, yet so many people were invested in my development and the support I received on my journey towards international rowing was amazing.
âž¡ How did school life help you to develop as an athlete?
It gave me an indestructible love of the sport! I never felt as though I was training, I was just having a great time. I’d sit in lessons longing for the afternoon sessions. Now, even when I’m going through a tough patch of training, the love is always there.
âž¡ What are your memories of school life beyond the sports field?
There seemed to be time to get involved with everything I wanted – I loved the Combined Cadet Forces, and I spent a fair bit of time playing the flute. And the teaching was exceptional.
Triumphing in the Boat Race
âž¡ Do you think that women’s rowing is getting the exposure it deserves?
Increasingly, yes. The BBC coverage of this year’s Women’s Boat Race was a massive step forward not just for our sport, but for women’s sport in general. I was excited by the attention it received in the print media, and the viewing figures for the race were awesome. It’s reassuring that there is so much public demand to watch women’s sport: now the broadcasters need to catch up.
âž¡ What has been your sporting highlight thus far?
Winning the National Schools Regatta in the Championship Girls’ Quads, and then going on to win on semi-finals day at Henley Royal Regatta in the inaugural junior girls’ event. There is something so powerful about sitting on a start line with a secret: that only you know how fast you’re capable of going. Canford were the underdogs (if we were even contenders), but we always believed that we could do something special. We still hold the national record now. It was a special year!
âž¡ And highlights since school?
I’m very proud of winning Junior and U23 World silver medals racing for Great Britain, and of being president of the winning Boat Race crew in the first year we had parity with the men. Racing on the historic Tideway was an amazing experience. So many women have come before me and not had this opportunity – it was very humbling, and an experience which I’ll treasure forever.
âž¡ What was the atmosphere like that day?
There was so much happening and so much noise on the land, but on the water there was just this beautiful stillness. It was just the crew, our boat and the race ahead.
âž¡ Were you aware of making history?
Our focus was pretty internal – we just wanted to move the boat as fast as possible. But since the race, speaking to so many people, I’ve become aware of the magnitude of what we did and the impact it had on the world of women’s sport.
âž¡ What has been your greatest challenge or lowest point so far?
I found parts of this season really challenging – I wasn’t really dealing very well at all with the pressure to perform and improve, and I ended up in a situation where my sense of self-worth was determined by how I viewed my performance. But it’s good going through something like that: it gave me perspective. As important I think rowing is, ultimately we’re just propelling a boat through the water!
âž¡ Will rowing be a part of your future?
I hope so: I love the sport and cannot imagine my life without it. I’ve got three more years reading medicine at Oxford and I’m planning to row throughout. When I finish here, I’ll see where I’m at. If I’m moving fast enough to take it further, that would be amazing!
âž¡ What have been your guiding principles, in your sporting and academic successes?
There’s a principle we live by on our team: nothing is a sacrifice. We all make choices to allow us to succeed at doing something we love. I also try to not lose sight of how lucky I am to have these opportunities – though sometimes at 5.15am this isn’t quite so obvious!