On the Boat Race, Women in Sport and Studying Medicine: Annie Anezakis (2023, Graduate Entry Medicine)


Rowing in the annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is the highest honour an Oxbridge rower can achieve. Other than rowing in two Boat Races, that is. This year’s race was Graduate Entry Medicine student Annie Anezakis’s second in three years, the first being 2022 – after which, she had said, she would retire from competitive rowing. Evidently that resolution is one that did not stick.

Annie’s rowing career began many miles away from Pembroke, at her high school PE lessons in Melbourne, Australia. But it wasn’t quite the classic story of a prodigy finding their calling - “I was so bad at it,” Annie laughed during our catch-up in Farthings Café. “I only really figured out the sport in my last year of school.” It was during this year that Annie won a national rowing championship, and university recruiters from the United States started coming to training sessions. She was recruited to attend Princeton, where she majored in Molecular Biology alongside rowing for the university.

But just one world-leading university on the CV was clearly not enough for Annie, who then applied to Lady Margaret Hall to continue her studies with a Masters in Pharmacology in 2021. Alongside achieving blades with the LMH Boat Club at Summer Eights, she joined the Oxford University Boat Club, and was selected to row in the 2022 Boat Race. Achievements aside, it was becoming a time-consuming hobby. “After that I decided I was done with it,” Annie told us. “I wanted to enjoy other aspects of Oxford life I thought I’d missed out on.” Rowing, it seems, was not done with Annie.

Annie representing Pembroke in stroke seat at this year's Summer Eights.
Annie in stroke seat for Pembroke W1 at May's Summer Eights regatta.

Even returning to Oxford was not initially on the cards for Annie. “I always knew I wanted to do Medicine, but I never thought I would get into Graduate Entry Medicine here. But I loved being in Oxford so much I gave an application a shot.” She had planned to complete her medical studies back in Australia, but luckily her “shot” paid off, and she was offered a place to start in 2023. “I chose Pembroke because one of my teammates from the Boat Race, Anastasia Posner, was here,” she explained. “She loved her experience at Pembroke, and said she was always really well supported by the faculty and community here.” Pembroke certainly has a strong rowing community, a sentiment with which Annie herself concurs later in our conversation.

Yet she remained steadfast that rowing was off the table this time around – for about two weeks. “I realised that outside of my studies, rowing had always been one of the most fulfilling parts of student life for me” she said. “I could have filled my time with 50 other extracurriculars – balls, bops, parties – but nothing meant as much as rowing. And the Boat Race only takes up half the year!”

Balancing work and rowing has been difficult, but Annie credits her tutors at Pembroke and the Medicine Faculty for providing “exceptional support”. “They’re really keen to support anything you want to do outside of the course, which is important for maintaining that academic and extracurricular balance,” she said. “If I didn’t have that time pressure, I think I’d struggle – it’s a blessing and a curse!”

Annie (second from left) with Pembroke W1 after bumping on the last day of Summer Eights.
Annie and W1 celebrating their bump on the last day of Summer Eights.

Occasionally the two overlap – Annie told us about her current research into the incidence of sports-related injuries at different phases in the menstrual cycle, which she hopes will help improve women’s participation in sport and how injuries are treated. It’s clear that she is incredibly passionate about medicine, particularly the clinical experience she gets to do every Wednesday. “It’s such a valuable experience because we learn something in the classroom and then get to go and see it in practice,” she told us, adding that it’s made her “so excited about going into a career in medicine.”

This year’s Boat Race was one of the most tense in recent history. Oxford gained an incredible start on Cambridge, which Annie described as “one of the best starts we’ve ever had,” adding that she’s particularly proud of the first ten minutes. Unfortunately, Cambridge managed to close the distance and ended up with a decisive victory.

The Women's Blue Boat for this year's Boat Race.
The Women's Blue Boat for this year's Boat Race. 

“It’s difficult not to be hard on yourself,” Annie shared as we reflected on the race. “We did everything we could, but you always question whether you could have gotten more out of yourself. I’ve thought back through the race about a hundred times, but if you let yourself get into that cycle of overthinking everything, you go insane - at the end of the day, I know we gave it our absolute all and am so proud of the season we had as a boat!”

It wasn’t a total loss for Oxford, though; Annie commended the Osiris crew who won for the first time since 2015, with Pembrokian Isabelle Rocroi among the crew. The lead-up to the race had been very promising for all of the OUBC crews, who had performed well in fixtures across top-tier programmes in the UK. Flooding and high river levels in Oxford must surely have had an impact on the crew, who were forced to train an hour and a half away at the Caversham rowing centre. An E. coli outbreak also caused unprecedented issues for the Oxford crew. Despite these setbacks, Annie concludes that “Cambridge were the faster boat on the day. We gave it our absolute best and I’m not sure there’s much more that as individual athletes we could have done.”

The Boat Race coming to an end did not signal the end of Annie’s rowing career – rather, she told us she was looking forward to rowing with PCBC in this year’s Summer Eights, which at the time of our conversation was just around the corner. Joined in the first women’s boat by fellow Boat Race rowers Lucy Edmunds and Isabelle Rocroi, Annie provided a strong stroke seat for W1, who achieved two bumps and two row overs in an impressive Eights campaign a few weeks ago. This means the crew will start next year’s Eights Week two positions higher as fourth on the river, opening up the competition for the headship to Pembroke women once again.

Looking to the future, Annie has just been elected as OUBC Women’s President for the 2024-25 season. With three more years of her course here at Oxford, she’s got plenty of time to get even more bumps and wins under her belt - we look forward to seeing where the Oxford rowing scene takes her next!


Annie's official Oxford University Boat Club headshot.