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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 10:44 GMT
Perkins passes greatest test
Sam Brooks, Andrew Dunn, Josh West and Dan Perkins pose on the banks of the Thames
Perkins (right) poses with some fellow American Blues
The University Boat Race is unquestionably one of the true tests of personal endurance, strength and stamina.

It may be belittled in some sporting spheres, but the fact that it is an amateur race only heightens the devotion of those involved.

A year of training for 20 minutes of gruelling, gut-wrenching physical effort over the course of four-and-a-quarter miles.

A fight against eight other men, the elements and your own physical limits.

A true test for all 16 oarsmen you might think.

But for one, the true test has already been faced, and conquered.

Dan Perkins will take his place in the Oxford boat having fought his way through a battle against cancer.

"I wonder if everything that I have gone through is going to help me in my race," the 26-year-old told BBC Sport Online.


My whole world kind of came crashing down
Dan Perkins
"I think I look at sport and this kind of competition in a slightly different light than maybe some of the other guys.

"It is a big deal, but after going through something like cancer you kind of put things into perspective. Winning and losing isn't everything."

When he was a US junior international studying at Dartmouth college, Perkins suffered his first attack, losing feeling down his right-hand side.

The then 21-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given two years to live.

"I had this kind of invincible feeling that you have at that age and my whole world kind of came crashing down."

Perkins refused to accept the diagnosis.

His recovery from neurosurgery was amazingly swift and within six months he was back training.

Within three years he had been picked for the US in the double sculls for the world championships, only to suffer another seizure.

But after another operation and two months of radiation therapy he again took to the water.

"I figured that I came back from it once so I thought I'd give it a shot again.


I'd like to show other cancer sufferers that I came out on the right side
Dan Perkins
"I started training again with a mind to try out for the national team.

"But I only had a couple of months ahead of the trials, and although I did alright, I didn't make the Olympics."

Now the American's focus is on Oxford, and although his sporting perspectives may have changed, his competitve edge remains undimmed.

He gave notice of his ability in November, finishing fifth in the British Indoor Rowing Championships - the best of any of the university oarsmen.

Perkins knew he wanted to row in the Boat Race after coming over to see his good friend Brian Palm compete last year.

"I knew it was big but seeing it is sort of like seeing the Grand Canyon. You know it's big, but when you get there it still blows you away.

"In the States, as rowers, we don't get this kind of coverage.

"So when you get the opportunity to reach however many million people, you really want to make a statement.

"It's a big deal for me because I'd like to show other cancer sufferers that I went through something and came out on the right side of it.

"I'm able to compete at a high level and that's what I'm going to try and do - give my best performance and show that a death sentence is not to be believed in some cases."

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Oxford's Daniel Perkins
"When I first had the cancer rowing was out of the picture"
BBC Sport Online's University Boat Race site

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