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  • 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races Campaign Launched With The Presidents' Challenge

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    On November 3 2016, the Presidents' Challenge took place at the Guildhall, London, formally marking the start of the build-up to The 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races.

    As per tradition, the Presidents of the two losing Clubs from the last Races issued a challenge to the respective holders of the two trophies — in this case Oxford University Boat Club and Cambridge University Women's Boat Club.

    Ashton Brown, President of Cambridge University Women's Boat Club, challenged her counterpart Isabell von Loga, while Lance Tredell accepted the challenge of Oxford University Boat Club President, Michael di Santo.

    The challenges were made in the East Crypt at the stunning Guildhall, a suitably historic location for The Boat Races, which date back to June 1829. Since then, Cambridge has won 82 races to Oxford's 79 (with one dead heat), and Cambridge also has the better of their rivals in the Women's Boat Race, with 41 wins to 30.

    Anticipation for the 2017 Races is already growing, after 2016 witnessed one of the most dramatic days in the history of the event. Tough conditions saw the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club crew only narrowly avoid sinking.

    But although the Presidents' Challenge mark the formal start of The Boat Races, the hard graft for those competing in the prestigious event started long ago.

    "The work has already started," admitted CUBC President, Tredell, in an interview with the BBC at the Guildhall. "It started the day after we finished the race last year. We've been working hard all the way through the year, towards the next race."

    "Obviously we are student athletes, so we have academic commitments as well as our training commitments," he added. "We have two training sessions a day. The first starts at 6.30am in time for lectures, and then we train again in the afternoon. We usually get back from that around 6.30pm, with more studying in the evenings."

    Professional Sports Group have ran The Boat Races since the 2012 competition, handling sponsorship, marketing, PR and community event management for one of the most historic and high profile occasions in UK sport.

    A day after the Presidents' Challenge, OneToWatch #12W released a short documentary looking back on the tumultuous 2016 races and ahead to 2017, produced in association with The Boat Races. OneToWatch #12W is the content arm of Professional Sports Group.

    A candid look behind the scenes as the Cambridge and Oxford boat squads return to training in preparation for April 2, 2017, the documentary features numerous members of the four teams.

    Back to Business is available to watch on YouTube.

  • Largest ever turnout at the Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival by Daman's Activelife

    Abu-Dhabi-Swimming-Fest

    The Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival 2016, presented by Daman's ActiveLife, witnessed record participation in its third edition, with close to 1000 swimmers, their friends and families taking a plunge at the stunning Emirates Palace beach. The popular event is sponsored by ActiveLife, which is an initiative from National Health Insurance Company – Daman and aims to mobilise the community to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

    Olympic Gold Medallist Sharon Van Rouwendaal joined swimmers at this year's event, alongside Emirati swimmers Al Jasmi Brothers and Nada Al Bedwawi, the UAE flag-bearer at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

    Van Rouwendaal, winner of the 10 kilometre open water race in Rio, said after finishing the Abu Dhabi Mile race: "It was fantastic joining all these committed swimmers at Emirates Palace beach this morning and participating in this year's Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival. These open waters in Abu Dhabi has to be one of the best I have ever seen and are very suited to swimmers of all levels. The festival is may be ending today but I do hope that everyone will give swimming a try given the fantastic beaches that Abu Dhabi has."

    Returning to this year's event Al Jasmi brothers, took part in a series of races throughout the day. Sultan Al Jasmi competing in the 800 metre race commenting on this year's event," It has been a privilege to return to Emirates Palace beach and take part in the fantastic event. I would like to thank the sponsors and organisers for their roles in facilitating this event and inviting international superstar Sharon Van Rouwendaal."

    Nicholas Roselt won the Abu Dhabi Splash Dash in the male category, while Marion Hanquet came first in the female category, while the winners of the Junior Slash Dash races were Tarek Al Awadi, Ralph Feghali and Tom Clifton, who won the 100m, 300m and 500m races respectively. The female winners of the Junior Slash Dash races were Marine Gambier who came first in the 100m race, Lily McDonald Rose in the 300m race and Isabelle Darling in the 500m race.

    Sharon Van Rouwendaal was the honorary entry in the Abu Dhabi Mile race and Anne Schuurmans and Naimh Carr were named the official winners of the event's longest race, in the male and female categories respectively. UAE swimmers showed strong performance at this year's events and took part in all races. Top participants were Khalifa Al-Saeedi and Mohamed Tamoom, who took leading positions in the Abu Dhabi Mile race. Also, the Family Fun Challenge overall winning team was the Emirati family team of Bakheet Al Qubaisi. The family race saw parents swim with their children in a relay format, where parents swam 300m and children 100m. The 4-person relay race winning team was from Gulf Sharks swimming school, who were the fastest to swim 300m each.

    Michael Bitzer, CEO of Daman commented on the festival, saying: "We've just witnessed another impressive Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival and the competition between the swimmers was simply superb to watch. Bringing together the community in such a way to compete and exercise is testament to Daman's vision of a healthier Abu Dhabi, and we hope this will encourage more residents of the capital to get active, whether it's to compete in the next swimming festival itself, or simply to adopt a healthier lifestyle through a sport they enjoy."

    Commenting about Emirates Palace's involvement in the 2016 Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival, General Manager Holger Schroth said: "It is an honour to host annual sporting events, such as the Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival by Daman's ActiveLife. We are happy to provide access to our exclusive 1.3km beach to families and residents who love to swim, because there is no beach in the capital better suited to an event such as this. We are also pleased to partner with organisations, such as Daman, who share our commitment to the improving the health and happiness of our Abu Dhabi community"

  • The Cancer Research UK Boat Races 2017 are coming – a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the super-humans at work

    Oxford University Boat Club training

    By Jim Bruce-Ball
    Head of Content, Professional Sports Group

    It seemed entirely appropriate in a week when Team GB’s Rio heroes were being rightly paraded and lauded in Manchester and London that Professional Sports Group spent a couple of days of awe-inspiring privilege with the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Clubs.

    Our Olympic medallists waved from their floats and double-decker buses and were feted by the admiring hordes in Manchester and London on Monday and Tuesday as a deserved reward for years of dedication to their sport which so often goes unnoticed. Meanwhile, four squads of sporting powerhouses were pushing their bodies to the limit, hard at work for their own day in the sun: The Cancer Research UK Boat Races

    I arrived at Oxford University Boat Clubs’s ‘Rowing Tank’ shortly after 630am on Tuesday morning – with the room already filled with athletes who had already been pumping their muscles in their standard ergo training session.

    Despite the chill of the dark autumn morning outside, all the windows are wide open in the gym and the sweat levels are rising. This session lasts 90 minutes, after which the rowers have a quick snack before hurriedly getting on their bikes and heading to lectures.

    One or two are stopping for a chat with us today, to play their part in a series of films Professional Sports Group are producing with The Boat Race, and happily talk through their typical day.

    Take Dr Isabell Von Loga, for example. This year’s Women’s President at OUWBC. “I usually get up at around 5am, to eat and then be in the gym by 6.30 for this first training session of the day. Then I have to be in the lab [Von Loga is taking a DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences] by 9 until 1 for my studies. From there it is down to the Boat House to be on the water from 2 until 4 or 5 – and then racing back to make sure I feed myself and get back to my studies. We train six days a week so there isn’t a real difference at weekends either. It can be hard. It is intense”

    For Ashton Brown, Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club President, it’s a similar story. A hugely enjoyable-wouldn’t-swap-it-for-anything life – but also intense. Her release these days, she says, is borrowing a friend’s puppy. “The dog doesn’t know anything about rowing or my PhD so it’s great,” she says.

    Another senior Dark Blue, Jamie Cook laughs that, even when he finds time to sit down for lunch, he has to concentrate to eat. “You literally have a 15-minute window to eat your food so you have to remind yourself not to talk too much. It is that tight a window.” He is smiling, but time management is clearly a crucial thing to get right in this unique world of elite sport and academia.

    I catch up with the Oxford squads again on the Thames in the afternoon. They have been delivered by mini-bus after a morning of tutorials and lectures and a swift lunch and are now prepping their own boats to go out on the water for a two-hour session. The atmosphere is light – but the seriousness of what they are doing it all for is omnipresent.

    Another Blue, James White describes what it is like to live this all-consuming life – and to be on the other side of it. “It’s so hard to have time for anything else in your life beyond academia and rowing. It really is all consuming. I am so lucky because I have such an understanding girlfriend and my family too. But you have to keep telling yourself the reason you are doing it.”

    That reason? One day in Spring (April 2 next year) when London comes to a standstill, the BBC sets aside a couple of hours in its schedule and millions of people tune in worldwide to watch two boats race down the River Thames. As all Blues from both sides will attest, winning is everything; the agony of losing almost indescribable.

    The sessions are over and both men’s and women’s squads make their way back to their colleges – to refuel their bodies and minds. It has to be bed by 9, 10 at the latest, because that alarm will go again at 5am tomorrow. It is not the student life I led – and I am sure is few many will ever experience.

    Their sacrifice is extraordinary, their skillset almost superhuman. And in 23 weeks some of these elite athletes whose endeavours go unsung for so many months of the year, will be heroes too.