Australian rower Joshua Hooper is hoping a trip down the Thames in this weekend’s Oxford-Cambridge boat race can take him closer to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
For Hooper, the sole Australian competing in Sunday’s (Monday AM AEST) 160th running of the historic university boat race, first priority is helping Cambridge turn the tables on 2013 champions Oxford.
But the 25-year-old Victorian also believes the experience will greatly boost his bid to crack Australia’s Olympic rowing squad.
“It’s definitely a good stepping stone (towards the Olympics) in terms of development as an athlete,” Hooper told AAP.
“The training that we do here is just as hard and as solid as what you would do to row for the national team.
“But at the same time, this race itself, there’s nothing like it.
“Even if I didn’t go to the Olympics, I’d be happy with this.”
Land Economy student Hooper will remain at Cambridge next year and hopes to contest the boat race again in 2015.
He then plans return to Australia and trial for a spot on the national team.
Hooper follows his good friend and former Mercantile Rowing Club (Melbourne) teammate Alexander Scharp, who contested the past two races for Cambridge.
Scharp tasted victory in 2012 before Oxford claimed a start-to-finish win last year.
Cambridge have the heavier crew, with weight historically considered an advantage in the 6.8km race, and Hooper is confident they can bounce back.
“On paper Oxford are seen as a better crew however there’s some huge talent in our crew and the scores we’ve been putting down this year are quite impressive,” he said.
“I’m really excited to get out there and I think we can win this one.”
Oxford’s crew features two New Zealanders; London Olympic bronze medallist Storm Uru and Sam O’Connor, and the former said Hooper’s presence provided some added motivation.
“It’s good there’s an Aussie in the other boat so we can try and take him down,” Uru said.
“It’s always good to have a bit of Australia-New Zealand rivalry.”
Thousands of spectators are again expected to line the banks of the River Thames for the iconic race.
Cambridge leads the series since 1829 by 81-77.