Alumnae Profiles

Kathryn Twyman

“Don't just look for tall people, the short ones might have tall roommates!” At 5ft 5", Kathryn was not the immediate target of her Dartmouth rowing coach’s recruitment plan, but nonetheless went on to become an asset to the Dartmouth, Oxford, British and Canadian rowing teams.

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Born in Edmonton, Alberta, to a British father and Canadian mother, Kathryn studied her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Chemistry and Physics and a minor in biology. In 2009 she won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and completed a PhD in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, focused on chemical reactions at ultra cold conditions; "I absolutely loved studying there, both in terms of the intellectually stimulating environment, and life outside of the laboratory”. 

Kathryn grew up playing football, winning gold at the Canadian National Soccer Championships in 2003, but an ACL tear forced her to switch sports. Starting in her freshman year, she rowed on the Dartmouth Varsity Team between 2005 and 2009, and loved the sport from the off, especially "the calm and peace of being on the water in the early morning, and the exhilaration of racing”. Continuing at OUWBC, it was challenging to balance her PhD work with training, but she really enjoyed training with a dedicated group of athletes, and credits her time there with improving her fitness to allow her to move up to the national team. 

A move to Wallingford RC led into a very successful international career with the GB Rowing Team. Kathryn became World Champion in the LW4x and European Silver Medallist in the LW2x in 2011, as well as winning four medals at Rowing World Cups. She returned to international competition in in 2016 in the LW4x for Canada, finishing 4th at the World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, in a race which also featured two other OUWBC alumnae. 

Kathryn is now based in New York City, working for Janssen Pharmaceuticals as a Senior Scientist in the Data Sciences Team. Always up for a challenge, in 2014 she completed the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun (a one day race across 23 islands in Stockholm), raced at the World Snowshoe Championships last year, and has just started training to join the US Search and Rescue team!

Advice for OUWBC athletes: 

"Make sure you enjoy what you are doing in any pursuit, and especially at OUWBC, regardless of the outcome of the boat race.”

Biography Highlights:

BA in Chemistry and Physics, Dartmouth

Matriculated in 2009, Merton College

Blue Boat 2010

PhD in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

World Champion in LW4x, 2011



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Judith Packer (née Harrow)

A highly experienced International Rowing Umpire, Judith Packer will umpire this year's Men’s Reserve Race on 2nd April 2017, the first female Oxford Umpire to do so. An honorary member of OUWBC, Judith has been the club's Umpire Representative on the Umpire Panel for the Boat Races since 2012. Through this she has played a key role in the transition and integration of the Women’s Boat Race onto the Tideway, as well as the evolving relationship with Cancer Research UK. "Being part of the Umpires’ Panel for the Boat Race is a wonderfully inspiring journey and epitomises all that is good in rowing. It has been a brilliant and challenging activity as the panel shares experiences, builds on knowledge and debates all aspects to ensure consistent and safe umpiring”. 

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A veteran of five Boston rowing marathons, Judith first became involved in umpiring to give something back and stay involved in a sport she loved. At London 2012 she volunteered as part of the National Technical Official ‘on-water’ team, and was on the HWR Organising Committee for many years. She is now one of 24 British International Rowing Umpires and in 2016 represented GB at the World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, which also included the Under 23 and Junior Championships for the first time. As the most extensive ever international regatta, she reflects that “it required exemplary teamwork both among the umpires and the Organising Committee; all voluntary and from different walks of life, cultures and languages”. Domestically, Judith is on the UK Multi-Lane Umpiring Panel and currently Chief Umpire for the Head of the River Fours, where she is responsible for the overall conduct of the race. Anyone who has raced on the Tideway can appreciate this is no mean feat! 

Judith credits her time at Oxford for planting the seeds for the two main passions in her life: rowing and engineering. She studied Engineering Science at St Peter’s College, and went on to have a distinguished career, specialising in the power and energy industries. Highlights include project managing new power plants for Cork and Tunisia, and leading the feasibility study for a new power plant in Ghana. It was also at Oxford that she met her husband, Richard, a fellow engineer and umpire. 

Look out for Judith on 2nd April, even though she hopes she will be hard to spot! "The role of the Umpire on race day is somewhat bizarre; our ideal scenario is that it all goes smoothly and no-one notices we are there!"

Highlighted Quote:

"Having been involved in Rowing for over 33 years, I realise this sport undoubtedly makes you a ‘better person’ in so many ways and has so much to offer many other fields of work." 

Biography Highlights:

Matriculated in 1983, St Peter's College

MA HONS Engineering Science

Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Project Manager

Umpire of Osiris Blondie Boat Race 2016

Umpire of Isis Goldie Boat Race 2017



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Christina Schonbach

Fluent in three languages, with knowledge of a further five, Christina’s interest in Classics was sparked aged just 12, by her first lessons in Latin and Greek. This led to an undergraduate degree in Classics at Oxford, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Further degrees at the University of Leiden followed, and in 2015 she graduated in Classical Solo Voice at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. 

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Despite detesting sport growing up, travelling around on city bikes was a big part of Christina’s teenage years due to the cycling culture in the Netherlands. This proved useful when she first took up rowing at Oxford. Keen to try out the tradition that so many people seemed to love, but fully expecting to hate it, Christina took to it surprisingly quickly. An addiction was born, and she joined OUWBC in 2008, discovering a strange love of the routine, the early mornings and exhaustion. Her 2010 Osiris crew keeps in touch regularly - 3 babies have been born so far - and she feels she’s made friends for life, “it’s great to be part of this groups of wonderful, powerful women”.

Resilience is a recurring theme mentioned by alumni when they reflect on what they learnt from their time at OUWBC, and Christina has found this particularly important as she establishes her singing career and faces ongoing auditions. Singing became her main hobby after starting classical training aged 13, and aged 16 she already had ambitions to go to the conservatoire. At Oxford she sang in the Balliol College Chapel Choir, Oxford Bach Choir and Oxford University Opera Society. Although she no longer rows, she remains fit and active, which “is so important if your body is your instrument”. Her singing practice has interesting parallels with her rowing training back in Oxford; “Mozart is like doing tempo training - short, fast bursts over a long time. Wagner is like a head race: pure strength and endurance”.

Highlights of Christina’s career so far include performing the work of Louis Andriessen with him in attendance, and presenting her first one-woman-show ‘ELLE - a woman’s voice’ in Amsterdam last October. She is currently doing projects in Patras, Greece, and singing Euridice in Gluck’s opera ´Orphée´, with further projects planned in Amsterdam this summer. Examples of her work can be found on her website, https://christinaschonbach.com, and we look forward to watching your career unfold Christina! 

Her advice to current OUWBC athletes: “Do it, work your ass off, leave the world in ruins and get hard as nails, but don´t lose yourself in it. Keep respecting yourself and others, whether they be your crew mates or your adversaries.”

Biography highlights:

Matriculated in 2006, Balliol College

Osiris 2009, 2010

BA in Classics

MA in Archaeology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands.

Minor in Journalism and New Media, University of Leiden

Graduated in Classical Solo Voice at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague in 2015

www.christinaschonbach.com



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Dr Mia Van Manen

Now a multi-talented Medic, Mia grew up in Dorset and first took up rowing at Canford School. Coached by Kevin and Sharon Ayles, she discovered a sport she loved, even though her earliest memories of the training involved hours of jumping over benches in the gym. In it’s infancy back then, she’s proud that the school’s rowing programme has gone on to produce GB squad members and fellow Boat Race winners Brianna and Anastasia. 

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Unlike many doctors, medicine was not a childhood ambition for Mia. A music and fine art scholar at Canford, she initially chose to study Biology at Brasenose, attracted to the dissection and drawing elements of the course. Moving to St Edmund Hall, she then studied an MPhil in medical anthropology, with a plan to work in global health. It was only during her masters that she realised she wanted to help people clinically, and applied for graduate medicine. This human element remains what Mia loves most about her chosen career, and she is currently a trainee in anaesthetics and intensive care. She hopes to specialise in paediatrics, and believes “the resilience and ability to focus under pressure that I developed as an athlete are a huge help to the challenges I now face at work”.

Despite a bumpy start and difficulty adjusting to trialling during her fresher year, Mia's time with OUWBC was very successful; she won all three of her races, broke the Henley Boat Races course record and won WeHORR overall in 2008. She was also part of fantastic OUWBC trips to Zambia, Taiwan and the Windermere Cup in Seattle, and remains friends with many of her former teammates: “I made some of my best and closest friends through OUWBC, and I feel lucky so to have such an inspiring bunch of friends who are always keen for some form of crazy sporty adventure!”. Last year her 2006 crew celebrated their ten year reunion by racing at the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. 

Mia had the full experience of college rowing; four years Head of the River with Teddy Hall up to 2009 were followed by spoons with Osler in 2013. She was also on the Blues team for Modern Pentathlon, dressage and showjumping whilst at Oxford. Despite a challenging work schedule, her love of athletic challenges remains as strong as ever; this year she'll be swimming the Thames Marathon and doing Ironman Sweden in August! Good luck Mia!  



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Annabel Eyres

Art and rowing; two passions that for some might seem worlds apart. Yet not only did Annabel Eyres excel at both during her time at Oxford, she even managed to successfully combine the two, setting up Rock the Boat in 1989 to help fund her rowing career.

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Established with fellow alumna Ali Gill, she sold the company in 2004, but still designs for new owner Di Binley. The pair also formed a formidable partnership on the water, achieving fifth place in the double sculls at the Barcelona Olympics, the highest position a GB crew had achieved to date. A member of the 1989 and 1991 World Championship Teams, Annabel loved the travelling, but also the post racing celebrations; “it was always great to have it all over with and then have fun in the beer tent and get to know other nationalities!”.

Inspired by her grandfather, a successful England rugby player, Annabel showed a fierce competitive spirit from a young age. She firmly fell in love with sport during Sixth Form at Bryanston School, and credits her time at the school for laying the foundations for her success as an international athlete. Initially preferring late night parting to 6am starts, Annabel took up rowing in the summer of her first year at Oxford, and before long was obsessed with the sport. A boat stopping crab in Torpids was followed by the joy of blades in Summer Eights, and she vividly remembers “the terror of sitting on the bung line and hearing the guns go off - far more scary than an Olympic final!”.
Part of the 1987 and 1988 Blue Boats, Annabel commends the dedication of her coaches, including Steve Gunn and Pete Sudbury. Another key figure was Dan Topolski; “a total maverick eccentric and inspirational character with huge charisma - a huge loss to the rowing world”. As OUWBC marketing rep, her hunt for sponsorship was unfruitful, but she did secure a several page article for the club in Elle Magazine. 

Annabel continues to be involved in rowing, previously with the first years at Radley, and now at Hinksey Sculling School in Oxford. A keen runner and swimmer, she also enjoys yoga, something she strongly recommends for all rowers. On a good afternoon, you might even catch her out sculling! 

Biography highlights: Matriculated in 1985, Pembroke CollegeBA in Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine ArtBB 1987 and 19885th at 1992 Barcelona Olympics in W2xSet up Rock the Boat with Ali Gill in 1987



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Zoe Lee

Last summer Zoe made history as part of the first British Women's eight to step on the podium at an Olympic Games. A regular in the boat for every year of that Olympiad, she credits her crew's successful progression to "trying to never make the same mistake twice". The eight remains her favourite boat class; "It's where I started and what I know best. To me it's as pure as racing gets, almost a flat out sprint, and I love the noise and excitement of a start. To do one in the Olympic Final under Christ the Redeemer on the Lagoa will take some beating". 

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Growing up in Yorkshire with her father as her PE teacher, unusually for a rower her first love was a ball sport, and she went on to win a Full Blue in Netball at Oxford. A self confessed reluctant rower, Zoe actively avoided the sport until a sunny and obviously enjoyable Summer Eights persuaded her to join in. Coached by Paul Mattick, she took to the sport quickly, and was talent spotted in her first Torpids, rowing in Dev Squad that summer. Ironically her first outing in the stroke seat wasn't a sign of things to come, “don't worry we won't be putting you in the stroke seat again” one coach remarked.

Two years later she stroked the 2008 Blue Boat to an overall win in the WeHORR and victory against Cambridge in the Boat Race, on a unseasonably cold and snowy Easter Sunday. She credits her time at OUWBC with teaching how to train hard and the fun of a cohesive group of women. It was one of her Oxford coaches, Andy Green, who encouraged her to continue rowing after she moved to London, joining Imperial College BC under Steve Trapmore. 

Dubbed the 'Dr of Sand', Zoe's research at Kings College London investigated the role of turbulence in Aeolian sand transport. Her interest in this area was sparked by a field trip to Tunisia as an undergraduate, "I stood at the top of a sand dune and all I could see was sand. I thought, wow, this is amazing". Finishing up during Olympic year was incredibly challenging, but ultimately successful, and she received confirmation of her PhD in the week of the Games. 

Zoe hopes to publish the rest of her research in coming year, and is now back in training with the GB Team for Tokyo 2020. Watch this space! 

Her advice to OUWBC athletes: "work on strengthening the individual connections between you, because they are so important in unlocking boat speed”. 



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Alice Topley (nee Freeman)

Despite all her international rowing experience, racing on the Isis in Summer Eights remains Alice’s favourite place to race. As many alumni can attest to, bumps is an experience unlike any other in rowing; ‘It’s manic! You’ve got a boat right on your stern, and you start sprinting with no idea of how long until you’ll stop. I loved it’. 

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Part of a storming Teddy Hall crew that won blades, Alice inherited her love of water from her father. A former school and university rower himself, he regularly took the family canoeing and punting on the river by their home in Oxfordshire. The purchase of two single sculls introduced Alice to rowing, and she soon realised the advantages of the one with the sliding seat, storming past her male friends in their fixed ones. An undergraduate degree at Durham University allowed her to take the sport up again, initially at Hatfield college with a rugby player as cox; ‘his competitive spirit more than made up for the extra weight we had to carry!’. 

Her time at Durham cemented her love of the sport; during a year travelling in Africa she missed being on the river, and applied for PGCE courses based on their rowing programmes. She arrived at OUWBC in the autumn of 2003 keen, but unfit; ‘it was a shock to the system, but my ergs improved rapidly and it was really fun right from the start'. Combining teacher training with rowing often required extra early sessions; one morning she forgot to pack shoes and had to teach all day in muddy trainers. Coach Ian Shore’s motto of ‘train hard, race easy’ mirrored her Blue Boat’s decisive 4 length victory, and she credits him for teaching them how to keep pushing themselves harder. 

From Oxford Alice moved to Wallingford RC, during an exciting era for the club with many GB athletes including Helen Casey and Paul Mattick. From almost last the previous year, she won Boston trials, and raced to a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2007. Alice was an Olympian in Beijing and loved the ‘speed and feeling of power’ you get from racing in eights. 

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Alice cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats with fellow Blues Hillary Powell and Acer Nethercote. A keen runner and cyclist, she’s now looking into her next athletic challenge for 2017 - watch this space! 

Her advice to OUWBC athletes: “Try not to get too lost in the day to day grind. Appreciate the time for what it is and make sure you enjoy it while you’re there.”. 



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Claire Rose (née Galloway)

It can be tough to find positives when you are injured, but for Claire Galloway the silver lining of her back injury is clear; “had it not been for my injury, I would never have started cycling”. Now a professional cyclist, placed second in this year’s National Time Trial Championships, it’s incredible to think that she fell into the sport by chance. 

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Born in Saudi Arabia and a GB Fencer at U17/20 level, Claire learnt to row at St Peter’s College under Adam Nelson, and enjoyed the work-life balance that sport provided alongside her medical degree. She enjoyed a very successful year with OUWBC, winning WeHORR, the Boat Race, and Women’s Henley in 2008. Reflecting on her time there, what stands out are "the friends I made and how we worked together to achieve some incredible things”, as well as her own growth in self-belief and confidence. Claire’s strong links to her College and OUWBC were long lasting; she returned to St Peter’s Chapel to get married, with Harriet Keane, one of her squad, among her bridesmaids. 

Success was followed by challenge; as President for the 2009 season she struggled to retain athletes in the face of no funding and £1000+ trialling fees, Hazewinkel froze over during training camp, and she suffered the back injury that ended her rowing dreams for that season. Our loss was to be cycling’s gain, for out on a rehab ride with Oxford City Road Club she caught the eye of ex pro Flavio Zappi. Within a year she was recruited to Team Zappis and won her first cycling race, and then took a year out from Oxford to train with the GB Cycling Team up in Manchester. Her first ever track session was alongside Hoy and Pendleton, which, “whilst slightly overwhelming, was also pretty awe inspiring”. 

Returning to Oxford to complete her studies, Claire continued her medical training in Wales, and hopes to specialise in anaesthetics in the future. After a few years away, she has returned to professional cycling, achieving multiple international race podiums this season. Next year she moves to a US based team, and will race in the UCI Women's World Tour, with longer term goals of the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and Tokyo Olympics. You can follow her progress at @claireyrose - we wish you fast racing and the best of luck Claire!  

Her advice to OUWBC athletes: “Make the most of any opportunities given to you and have confidence in what you can achieve. Don’t be afraid of failure, and when things do go wrong, learn from any mistakes and move on”. 

Biography Highlights:

Matriculated in 2005

Studied medicine at St Peters then GTC

Blue Boat 2008, President 2009

GB Team Pursuit Squad 2010-11

2nd in National Time Trial Championships 2016

Riding for Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling Team in 2017

Contact: claire.ruth.galloway@gmail.com



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Katie Davidson

Rowing, swimming, Navy; a central theme running through Katie Davidson’s impressive achievements is water. Now a Surface Warfare Officer in U.S Navy, the former swimmer first took up rowing in the autumn of 2013. Eighteen months later, she raced at 4 in the 2015 Osiris crew, part of the first OUWBC squad to compete on the Championship Course on the Tideway, and marking an impressive rise through the sport. 

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Growing up in Orlando, Florida, Katie followed in her father’s military footsteps and studied at the U.S Naval Academy, majoring in English and researching comic books’ influence on WWII. She chose the Navy because the other armed forces offered fewer opportunities for women at the time; a situation which has since changed, and parallels with the women’s Boat Race recent move to the Tideway. A regular on the Varsity swim team, she raced as a NCAA Division I ‘miler’ for four years, and also swam the English Channel as part of a Cambridge team. 

Awarded the Marshall Scholarship in 2013, she arrived in the UK looking for a new athletic challenge. At 6ft tall she was soon scouted out by her college Boat Club, and visited CUWBC, during which the seed of the Boat Race was planted. Her first experience of racing followed that season in Bumps, which, despite being unlike anything she had experienced before, was ‘super fun’. Her second year as a Marshall Scholar was spent as a dark blue, studying for a MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy at Magdalen College, Oxford. As a passionate women’s rights activist, the timing was perfect for Katie; “It was a very special year to be part of, an important milestone for the furthering of women’s athletics and women in general”. Having had mostly male coaches through her swimming career, she enjoyed being coached by Christine and Tash, whose squad embodied a ‘one team, one focus’ attitude. Her year at OUWBC culminated in racing in the Remenham Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, which ‘marked the end of a great year with a bunch of really fun girls’. 

Katie has just returned from a seven month deployment in the Western Pacific, where her unusual working hours meant that after the obvious land, she missed seeing the sun most of all. She believes there are many parallels to be drawn between her current role and time at OUWBC. “Success in both centre around learning how to be effective in a high stress team environment. Being aware of how your emotions impact upon others and suitably reacting to theirs is vital”. 
Her advice to OUWBC athletes: “It’s worth it. Stick it out because the reward is absolutely worth it. For me, the Boat Race was a truly life-changing experience."



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Brianna Stubbs

A World Junior silver medallist in 2009, Brianna arrived at Pembroke determined to take a break from rowing. Just six weeks later she was drawn back to the sport she loved, and hasn’t looked back since. 

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Perhaps this is unsurprising given her upbringing; her father took part in the first ever Atlantic rowing race in 1997 and aged twelve she became the youngest person to row the channel. A sports scholarship at Canford School followed, during which she focused on rowing. 

Her two years at OUWBC were strikingly different; the first an empathic 4 length victory was followed by a much tougher challenge, when, having lost to Cambridge by 21 seconds only 6 weeks previously, her crew rallied to win by a length on the day. Combining training with a lecture intensive course wasn’t easy, her least favourite memories being cycling in Radley before dawn, rowing in the dark and sprinting back for 9am medical lectures (something many alumnae can relate to). Yet she speaks fondly of her time with both crews; "I still feel very proud to be able to say I was a member of OUWBC and won the Boat Race twice. The club has a fantastic history and symbolises a pretty unique opportunity to combine high quality academics and athletics."

A former Under 23 and current senior World Champion, since leaving OUWBC Brianna has led a highly successful career as an international lightweight, and now trains with the GB senior squad at Caversham. She has impressively combined this with studying for a DPhil in Human Physiology at Oxford, funded by an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. Her project looked at the metabolic effects of a newly developed energy drink containing ‘ketones’ and it’s potential uses for athletes and patients. Although hugely challenging, it’s conclusion this autumn has been equally rewarding; "There is nothing like the buzz of feeling like you have discovered something new that no-one has ever seen before!”.

Brianna is in the final stages of writing up and plans to continue her research part time with the aid of a Doctoral Innovation Transition Fellowship Gold Award. She continues to train with the GB Rowing Team in Caversham, with the aim of competing at Tokyo 2020. 

Her advice to OUWBC athletes: "Being successful is the sum of lots of small choices you make everyday, so make as many right choices as you can, but one or two wrong ones won't be the end of the world!”.



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Sonia Bracegirdle

‘I am and am enormously grateful for all the opportunities that rowing has offered me, from being able to participate in races throughout the world, to developing time management and leadership skills.’ Sonia Bracegirdle 2013.

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Sonia was born and bred in New Zealand. She first came to the UK in 2004 on a undergraduate scholarship to Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences at Gonville and Caius College.

Here she took up rowing as a novice in her first term, she continued to row for Caius throughout her first and second years. In her third year she joined CUWBC and was thrilled to make the Cambridge Blue Boat for the 2007 Boat Race. She graduated from Cambridge with an MSci in Chemistry in 2008 before moving to Oxford to start a DPhil as a Clarendon Scholar in 2009.

At Oxford she was convinced, despite not having intended to, to row for OUWBC and rowed in the winning 2009, 2010 and 2011 Blue Boats. Sonia was President of OUWBC in 2010.

She has now 'retired' from rowing. She has taken up distance running to keep fit with the aim of one day completing the Marathon des Sables.



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Sonia Bracegirdle

Kathryn Twyman

Kathryn was born and brought up in Canada. She played football growing up and played for Sherwood Park Rangers winning a gold medal at the Canadian National Soccer Championships in 2003. A knee injury sustained just before commencing university unfortunately ended her footballing career.

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Keen to continue with sport she decided, during her first year at University, to try rowing. It soon became clear that she was a very talented oarswoman and she continued to row throughout her undergraduate degree, she rowed in the Varsity boat from 2007-2009. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dartmouth College, USA in 2009 with a double major in physics and chemistry, and a minor in biology.

In the autumn of 2009, Kathryn moved to Oxford to work on a DPhil. in physical and theoretical chemistry on a Rhodes Scholarship. She rowed in the winning OUWBC Blue Boat in 2010.

During 2010 she began trailing for the GB rowing team, eventually making it into the squad in the spring of 2011. Kathryn won the gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in the LW4x in 2011, as well as four silvers and one bronze in the LW1x and LW2x disciplines at European Championships and World Cups since then.

Kathryn is currently in her fourth and final year of her DPhil in physical and theoretical chemistry. Once she submits in October, it is likely she will move to Reading to train with the GB National Squad while tutoring physics and chemistry.



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Kathryn Twyman