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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 10:03 GMT
Cambridge hope gives up Athens chance
By Martin Gough

Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell carry British hopes of an Olympic rowing medal in Athens next August, but imagine if one of them opted out.

An injured Pommen is helped out of the boat two days before last year's race
That is just what Canadian Wayne Pommen has chosen to do so he can row in next year's Boat Race.

Pommen was in a pair that finished just three seconds behind GB at last year's World Championships (defending champs Pinsent and Cracknell came a disappointing fourth).

But he has now taken took his place in a group of Cambridge under-graduates looking to topple Oxford on 28 March.

At 24, the native of British Columbia has a chance in the future to go for Olympic glory but for now there is a sense of a job not yet done.

Pommen was in the bow (the sharp end) of the Cambridge boat until two days before last year's race, when it was in collision with a 15-tonne Port of London Authority boat.

Giving up a shot at the Olympics is about the biggest sacrifice you can make as an athlete
Robin Williams
Cambridge coach
His oar blade took the blunt of the crash and his wrist was broken, ruling him out of the big race.

"We were doing one of our last bursts, so we were going full tilt, and the harbour master's launch was coming diagonally - it was quite an impact," he told BBC Sport.

"When you're absolutely focused on an event, preparing yourself as well as you can and then all of a sudden you're not going to be part of it, it's quite a thing to deal with."

"I argued with the doctors for a few minutes to see if they would change their minds but it was fairly obvious when I pulled on it that it was broken across the top of the radius."

Roses take the lead over Guns in December's Cambridge trial race
The Cambridge squad have undergone another gruelling winter
Pommen had to watch from the bank as his team-mates lost an epic race by a single foot.

And even a surprise sixth place in Milan - rowing with Scott Frandsen, who was at Oxford last year - could not dissuade him from having another shot.

"When I originally came to Cambridge the plan was to do one year, although through the winter I entertained the idea of staying on," he explains.

"But after the Boat Race I began to weigh up the options, seeing whether staying on was something I wanted to do, and I decided it was.

"After we did well at the World Championships I did another round of soul-searching but I felt my commitment to Cambridge was the most important thing."

His Cambridge crew-mates rated him highly enough to elect him president (club captain) for this year, and so far he has repaid their faith.

STRONG STERN
Stroke Nate Kirk and seven man Wayne Pommen form a solid stern pair
"He's just an excellent character; he's really focussed, really determined, a great leader," says Cambridge coach Robin Williams.

"Giving up a shot at the Olympics is about the biggest sacrifice you can make as an athlete."

Pommen admits: "It would have been difficult to walk away from the whole thing.

"It's not just about doing the Boat Race. I'm also enjoying the process, I'm enjoying Cambridge, enjoying my studies, enjoying being in the team again.

"Being in the Boat Race, and hopefully winning, would be the icing on the cake."





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