Sibling rivalry: Twins go into Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on opposing teams

Catherine and Gemma King, 24, will be rowing on opposing teams in the 2024 Boat Race for the very first time. Credit: British Heart Foundation/PA

Twin sisters studying for PhDs at Oxford and Cambridge are set to face off in the 2024 Boat Race as they row for opposing teams for the very first time.

Catherine and Gemma King, 24, are used to competing side by side since they began rowing at the age of 12 and they have both competed in the Gemini Boat Race for Cambridge since 2018.

However, this year the pair will be donning different colours in the 78th women’s race on 30 March after Catherine moved to start studying for a PhD at Oxford University while Gemma remained at Cambridge, where she is also studying for a PhD.

“We are both very competitive and we obviously want to win, but at the end of the day the Boat Race is so much more than who wins or who loses,” Gemma, who is studying stem cell biology, said.

“No matter what happens, I’m going to be really proud to be racing for Cambridge and proud of Catherine for racing for Oxford – but obviously we’d like to win.

“We all train so hard all year, so to see that hard work pay off is really special.”

Catherine and Gemma King began rowing together at the age of 12. Credit: British Heart Foundation/PA

Catherine, studying cardiovascular science, said: “I’m really looking forward to the Boat Race this year, it’s been a really exciting year for me because I joined the Oxford team.

“The Boat Race is an amazing experience to be a part of and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do on race day.”

While their teams are set to go head-to-head, the pair said it is likely they will not be racing against each other, with Gemma due to compete in the first boat for Cambridge and Catherine in the second boat for Oxford after she took some time off from the sport following an injury.

The duo, from Bagshot, Surrey, added that their parents, Mike and Liz King, will be supporting both teams and may potentially wear hats or t-shirts with both Cambridge’s light blue and Oxford’s dark blue colours.

“They’ve actually joked about getting half-and-half hats but I think at this point it might be more than a joke,” Catherine said.

“They’ll definitely be supporting us both and they come and watch every race.”

The twin sisters, both studying for PhDs at Oxford and Cambridge, are set to face off in opposing teams for the very first time. Credit: British Heart Foundation/PA

The siblings began participating in the sport when they were 12, saying it has “become a bigger part of our lives” since then.

“We got into the sport together and I think because we’re both competitive as individuals, as well as with each other, we pushed each other on to become better athletes,” Catherine said.

Gemma added: “We’re always very honest with each other and we’ll tell each other what we’re doing wrong.

“We’ve always managed to achieve things that people didn’t expect in boats together.”

This year, the Boat Race Company Limited (BRCL) has teamed up with the British Heart Foundation as its official charity partner, a move which is meaningful for Catherine as her PhD is being fully funded by the cause, saying it has “combined the two great loves of my life”.

The partnership is also particularly poignant as it follows the death of former chair of the BRCL Tim Senior, who died of a cardiac arrest in 2023.

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