The 47-year-old, who is currently doing an MPhil at Cambridge University, was seen rowing on the River Great Ouse in Ely, Cambs, with his potential teammates. If he is selected for Light Blue Boat team in April he will become the oldest man ever to compete in the famous race, beating Andy Probert, who was 38 when he coxed Cambridge in 1992 and Mike Wherley who rowed for Oxford at 36 in 2008.
James, who has two Olympic Gold medals from Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, would also become the most decorated man to row in the annual contest against Oxford. The oarsman stood out from the rest of the students today as he was dressed in a bright red, white and blue top from the Sydney Olympics, whilst the rest of the team wore their light blue kit. The eight-strong team made the most of the sunny weather to train for one-and-a-half hours on the river. Afterwards James was seen helping to carry the boat back into their boathouse in Ely.
Last year James, who is studying a masters degree in philosophy, tweeted: “Honoured to have gained a place on an MPHil at @Cambridge_Uni I’ll need the support of my amazing family to do the course & if I go for Boat Race selection support of old heart & lungs required #nevertooold.”
James is renowned for his extraordinary physical challenges, which include the Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean and trekking across the Arabian Desert. He has also become a successful runner, becoming the highest placed Briton ever in the Marathon des Sables in 2010 and completing the London Marathon in 2:43:12 in 2017.
In the past other older athletes have tried out for the Boat Race, including rugby player Andy Ripley, who missed getting a place on the team in 1998 when he was 50. Last year Cambridge beat Oxford in all four races on the River Thames, including the men’s, women’s and both reserves.