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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK
Mixed emotions for Oxbridge Blues
By Martin Gough
at the Boat Race

In an event supposed to emphasise collective rather than individual performance, single individuals have stood out in the last three Boat Races.

In 2002 it was Cambridge's Sebastian Mayer, who collapsed during the final stages as Oxford recovered from a disadvantage around the outside of the last bend to win.

In 2003 Wayne Pommen, now the Light Blue president, did not even make it into the boat after a crash with a motor launch on the eve of the race.

Kennelly struggles as his crewmates row on
Kennelly's Boat Race dreams were bumped off course
Had the Canadian international been there, Cambridge could have gained the extra foot that would have given them victory.

In 2004, the outstanding individual, in the worst sense of the term, was Oxford's Chris Kennelly, who fell off his seat following a controversial clash between the crews.

Kennelly got back on his seat and tried to carry on but found that it still would not move and he had to get off again to fix the problem.

For Mayer and Pommen, the 150th Boat Race was one of redemption as they swigged from bottles of champagne.

It left Kennelly clearly on the verge of tears after the presentations as he sought to avoid attention in the Oxford minibus.

"We were robbed," he told BBC Sport.

Oxford did not give up after the clash, which left them two boat lengths down, but once in front Cambridge had the benefit of being able to sit on their lead.

"We fought tooth and nail for inches - they had miles," said Kennelly.

"Im proud of our crew for hanging in there but we never really had a shot."

Acer Nethercott raises his hand to appeal after Oxford's loss
Every indication was that we were the faster crew
Oxford cox Acer Nethercott
Pommen and Mayer both got a chance to come back for a second chance, although Mayer took a year off to work on his Phd before facing such a tough test again.

Californian Kennelly is on a one-year course working for an Masters degree in Physiology, and this was his one big chance in a unique race.

"I'm only here for a year but hopefully I'll have another chance to race some of those boys again," he said.

If he does, it will not be in such a high-profile event as this.

Oxford cox Acer Nethercott stared blankly into the middle distance as he protested that Cambridge were in the wrong when the clash came.

"If you lose a close one and you've given it your all you can look the other guys in the eye and say 'Well done'," he said.

"But to have it decided on a foul when we were clearly moving leaves you with so many questions.

"Every indication was that we were the faster crew and so that just leaves a hollow feeling in your gut."

On the beach, Mayer's grin stretched from ear to ear as he hugged anyone in sight, saying he felt "Awesome".

He was keen to emphasise the team spirit that had brought the Light Blues to victory.

Wayne Pommen celebrates victory
Victory tasted sweet for Pommen after 2003's accident
"We started well, we had a good race - some clashes - and we did a really good job," he said.

"We started together. We had our aim. We knew what we wanted to do and we did it together as a team with coaches.

The 30-year-old explained he had had a successful year working on his studies in cancer research, but that he had kept his sights set on one aim.

"At the end I got what I wanted - a victory for Cambridge - and that's really unbelievable."

This is the only big race of the season. The faces of the entire Oxford crew spoke volumes of their lost six months of training five hours each day.

And for Pommen the wait had been even longer.

"I feel like I was waiting a year and a half rather than just half a year so it's a bit sweeter for me," he said.

"I've never wanted to win any race more than this one and I've never prepared for any race more than this one so it feels pretty sweet right now.

Of the Kennelly incident he said: "I don't know the exact details of what happened. I saw him lose his seat.

"He must not feel very good about that right now."





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