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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 April 2006, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Joining forces
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport at The Boat Race

Tom Parker with the Oxford crew
Parker and his Oxford colleagues celebrate a famous victory

Early on Wednesday morning, two oarsmen will meet at the airport with the Boat Race still raw in their memories.

Tom Parker and Kieran West have spent the last six months on either side of rowing's highest-profile divide.

On Sunday, Parker was celebrating madly after winning the 177-year-old race at the first attempt.

West appeared inconsolable after he lost his first. Having played a key role in victories in 1999 and 2001 he had returned for another shot.

For the next fortnight the two men will be in a coxless pair, Oxford and Cambridge combining together as part of the Great Britain squad at a training camp in Varese, Italy.

Last year they were part of the GB eight that finished fourth in the World Championships in Gifu, Japan.

It's given me what I need to really step on from here and jump in that pair with a guy who I look up to and admire
Tom Parker on his partnership with Kieran West
This year their sights are set on performing before their second frenzied crowd of the year, as the World Champs take place in England for the first time in 20 years.

West has an Olympic gold from Sydney and an MBE for services to rowing on his mantelpiece but the pain of defeat in the Boat Race was obvious.

He still sought out Parker, gave him a hug and told him: "Well done."

It is normal, especially in a non-Olympic year, for international oarsmen to spend their winters at Oxbridge.

Fifteen of this year's competitors are internationals and many will be scattered between crews at Dorney Lake in Berkshire for a week from 20 August.

If they are lining up opposite the USA eight, Parker will know all about Paul Daniels.

The Oxford four man had on the lucky socks that brought him gold at last year's Worlds and he plans to have them on this time too.

Despite his past achievements, West, 28, came back to study for a PhD in First World War military history, and look for his third victory on the Thames.

Parker, 23, did his undergraduate degree at nearby Oxford Brookes University.

West after the race
Kieran West (far left) and his crew-mates were inconsolable
He said of the move to Oxford, where he is studying Theology: "It was very hard, very tough. It was quite a shock.

"You have two sessions a day, one very early in the morning and one in the afternoon, coupled with a much greater [university] workload than I'm used to."

His greatest achievement so far is a World Cup bronze at Dorney last year but he argued: "To win the Boat Race is up there as the ultimate rowing achievement.

"The Olympics and World Championships are also very good but the Boat Race, especially in a year like this, is definitely up there."

On Sunday evening it was not easy to talk about anything, let alone rowing in four months' time.

But a few days earlier West was able to look forward to August and hopes of more glory.

"The home crowd makes a massive difference - Steve Redgrave never got it," he said.

"You can't over-emphasise how important [the event] is, both for the British team and for British rowing.

"We're going to get rowing really pumped up two years before the Beijing Olympics.

He's done far more than I have and ever can hope to achieve
Tom Parker on Kieran West
"I think this will be good for the new guys coming through because we haven't got the names we used to have so it's time to create some new ones."

Pre-empting his feelings on Sunday evening, he explained: "In an international event you get a place, you get multiple chances in the first round, semi-final and final.

"In the Boat Race you get one, with everything through winning and nothing through losing.

"Second place in the Boat Race is nothing; it's absolute devastation, there's no comfort."

While West sloped off with his distraught crewmates, Parker hoisted the Xchanging trophy with a caveman-like roar on the podium in Mortlake.

He told BBC Sport afterwards: "The feeling is unique and to be in a position to experience it is something I will never ever forget.

"Kieran is a true professional in every sense.

"I will always look up to him and respect him; he's done far more than I have and ever can hope to achieve."

Links to more Rowing stories


Boat Race photos
02 Apr 06 |  Photo Galleries
Find out where to start rowing
19 Oct 05 |  Rowing

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