James Cracknell 'proud' to have made Cambridge team for Boat Race against Oxford as he rows into record books

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Reporter Will Mott

Double Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell has said he is as "proud" to have been selected for Cambridge's Boat Race team as he was when he made the Olympic team.

However, the fact that this year's competition is 14 years after the Athens Olympics (Cracknell's last) and 13 years after he retired from rowing, means that the sportsman is championing MAMILs (middle-aged men in lycra) nationwide as he becomes the oldest Boat Race competitor in history by eight years.

The Boat Race course, known as The Championship Course is 4 miles long. Credit: ITV News

The 46-year-old qualifies to take part in Sunday's race against Oxford, as he is studying for a Master's degree in human evolution at the University of Cambridge.

"I'm genuinely as proud to be racing in this race as I was in the Olympics," Cracknell said, speaking ahead of the 3.10pm race.

"There were times when I wasn't sure I was going to make the boat and it's a huge sense of satisfaction to be in the crew, but that will mean nothing if we don't win."

Yet Cracknell, who is just one month short of his 47th birthday, is someone who is used to overcoming adversity, suffering brain damage in a cycling accident 2010, but going on to come second in 163 hours and 20 seconds in the Yukon Arctic Ultra - a gruelling 430-mile race across the frozen Alaskan countryside just six-months later.

As well as several marathons, Cracknell has also rowed the Atlantic with Ben Fogle, and finished 12th in the 156-mile Marathon des Sables which is run the Sahara Dessert.

James Cracknell (second from right) with his gold-medal winning crewmates Steve Redgrave, Tim Foster and Matthew Pinsent, at the Sydney Olympics. Credit: PA

The athlete said he believes that his experience in high-level competitions - including both the Sydney and Athens Olympics - would help him and his teammates during the race, but that he also, has a lot to learn from them.

However, Cracknell revealed that there are some jokes about the age difference - with the youngest competitor just three years older than his son - with his crewmates referring to him as "Uncle James", although he admitted this was preferable to the "dad" and "grandad" they had previously.

The Boat Race course, known as The Championship Course is 4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 km long and stretches between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames.

The race first took place in 1829, then 1836 and intermittently until 1856, when it became an annual event.

The women's race starts almost an hour ahead of the men's at 2.13pm.