Rowing: Teenage Dark Blue powers into Olympic frame
Monday 28 March 2011
His friends call him Stan, but you get a better idea of his background from his full name. Constantine Louloudis is studying Classics at Oxford, went to Eton College and returns every summer to his father's family home on the Greek island of Andros. His mother is a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Royal.
Louloudis, nevertheless, is quickly making a name in his own right. Having already won a gold medal at the junior world rowing championships two years ago and silver at the Under-23 world championships last summer, the 19-year-old added a Boat Race victory to his achievements on Saturday, helping Oxford beat Cambridge, the favourites, by a crushing four lengths.
The Eton and Oxford connections inevitably lead to comparisons between Louloudis and Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won four Olympic gold medals. Such talk looks certain to continue in the coming months. Louloudis has already performed well in one trial for the British Olympic squad and his coach at Oxford, Sean Bowden, believes the youngest oarsman in this year's Boat Race has every chance of competing in London next summer.
"He's only been rowing for four years, so he's only going to get better technically," Bowden said. "His physiology is exceptional, particularly for his age and his size. He's only 92 kilos.
"He likes to win. That really comes through and that's what you want to see from your Olympians – people who are prepared to get in there and take the race by the scruff of the neck and give the opposition what they deserve."
At his first trial with the British senior squad last month, Louloudis paired up with Karl Hudspith, another member of Oxford's winning crew, and rowed impressively despite limited preparation.
If Louloudis is called into the British squad, he will ask to take a year off from his studies to prepare for the Olympics, as Pinsent did 20 years ago. Did Louloudis think the part he had played in Oxford's 76th Boat Race victory might persuade Trinity College to put his academic career on hold for 12 months? "That would be nice, but it's still for them to decide," he said. "I wouldn't want to pre-empt their decision, but I imagine it wouldn't hurt."
On Saturday, Louloudis wanted only to savour Oxford's resounding victory, which did not look in doubt from the moment Sam Winter-Levy, the cox, asked his crew to make a big push as the boats approached Hammersmith Bridge. They surged to a two-lengths lead they never relinquished.
"We felt so relaxed and in control," Louloudis said. "At no stage did I think Cambridge deserved to be favourites. I thought it was pretty evenly matched. They maybe had a bit more experience, but we shone through on the day."
The victory was a tactical triumph for Bowden, whose 10th Boat Race victory – the coach won twice with Cambridge in the 1990s and has triumphed eight times with Oxford since the turn of the century – puts him just two behind Dan Topolski.
When the Dark Blues lost 12 months ago, Bowden decided to change their training to give them more staying power. The coach also used a rarely-deployed formation known as "tandem rigging", with the No 4 and No 5 oarsmen, Ben Ellison and Hudspith, both rowing on the bow side.
"It's been an extremely satisfying and enjoyable year," Bowden said. "To see people row to their potential and take the full satisfaction of having done that on the day is great to watch."
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