Former Aberdeen University student Ben Dyer said “this was my Olympics” after he and his Cambridge crew triumphed in the annual boat race.
It was no mean feat for the 28-year-old who suffers from Crohn’s Disease and whose training in the lead-up to the clash with Oxford was disrupted.
When the former Mackie Academy first picked up an oar four years ago it was initially for a “paddle then a pint”.
And his battle with Crohn’s Disease meant he would suffer spells of exhaustion, dizziness and even unconsciousness.
Ben, who grew up in Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire, admits he initially ignored the symptoms in the manner of a “typical guy”.
Boat Race win came after Crohn’s struggle
However, after opening up about his condition and seeking medical help he has brought it under control to the point where he can compete with the best on water.
The engineering student has now triumphed in one of the most storied sporting events in the world – winning the 166th Boat Race at the weekend as part of the Cambridge crew.
It’s really important to make sure you’re in a good place by talking to family or a doctor.”
The contest has bred generations of Olympians from Great Britain and overseas who have competed against the world’s best.
Ben said: “It was a long time in the making for me, that race.
“As someone who was trying just to make the crew it meant a lot to be part of a winning crew – and it wasn’t just the case of Cambridge having a weak year.
“I think it shows that if you can get on top of your condition then you can perform athletically.
“It’s obviously not possible for everyone, but hopefully for most if they have periods of remission.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a period of remission with the right medication, but I still haven’t been able to take part in all the training – I’ve had to miss some to prevent a flare up.
“Between juggling training for the race and the PhD you can start to lose sleep and it can quickly spiral.
“I talk about Crohn’s now because I used to not talk about it. It’s really important to make sure you’re in a good place by talking to family or a doctor.”
‘Boat Race was my Olympics’
The post-race celebrations of the Boat Race traditionally involve a black tie dinner with the most recent crews welcomed by alumni, some of whom have won Olympic medals.
For Ben and his crew the coronavirus restrictions meant they retired to their shared bubble accommodation to share magnums of sparkling wine presented to them after the race while re-watching their triumph, which was the closest since 2003.
And despite the victory, the former oil and gas worker believes it might be one of the final times he competes at an elite level.
New venue, same result.
— Olympics (@Olympics) April 4, 2021
Ben said: “The coach is considering going to Henley because Cambridge hasn’t won there for too long.
“I’m due to finish my PhD either on or before September and then I will go back into work.
“Hopefully I’ll continue rowing, but perhaps at a less serious pace.
“I’ve trained for four years for this one race. It may sound a cliché, but the Boat Race is my Olympics.”