Swimmer Interrupts Dramatic Oxford Cambridge 2012 Boat Race

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The world-famous annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities was held on the River Thames this weekend and turned out to be one of the most dramatic ever. Firstly, the race had to be restarted after a swimming protestor was almost hit by the boats, then the Oxford team broke an oar and Cambridge won, before a member of Oxford had to be rushed to hospital at the end of the exhausting race.

The Oxford Cambridge boat race (known as just the Boat Race) is one of the best known British traditions. For over 150 years, the two universities have battled it out on the Thames in a rowing race that today attracts up to 300,000 spectators. However, the 158th race, held on Saturday, has to be one of the most eventful ever.

Swimmer Stops Race

The drama first started ten and a half minutes in to the race, when a man appeared in the middle of the Thames, right in front of the two boats which were side by side. After spotting him in the water, race umpire John Garrett quickly stopped the race, later explaining:

"I wasn't sure if he was going to get out of the way in time, it was quite clear he was waiting for the boats to come across him, so I just had to stop the race."

It turned out the swimmer was a 35-year-old anti-elitist protestor from east London named Trenton Oldfield. After the race he was taken into police custody and charged under the Public Order Act, and is due in court on 23 April. The former LSE student has since revealed on Twitter and his blog that it was an act of defiance against the elitist classes, encouraging others to follow with such acts of civil disobedience. He posted on his Twitter:

"Of course I expected the vindictive class to be vindictive and nasty about having disrupted their fun and 'months of training'. I'm 100% behind my actions, if it's jail time, so be it." Trenton Oldfield

However, many others have condemned his actions, with one member of the Oxford boat team particularly scathing. William Zeng was the second-youngest member of the team at 22 years old, and used his own Twitter to mount this poetic rebuke of the protest:

"When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you. I know exactly what you were protesting. You were protesting the right of 17 young men and one woman to compete fairly and honourably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition. You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuits of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man" William Zeng

Oxford Rower Collapses

After a 31-minute delay, the race was re-started from the half-way point. However, the excitement didn't stop there, as moments after the race was resumed one of the Oxford team broke their oar. This effectively meant that it was eight rowers against seven for the rest of the race, and Cambridge won with ease.

And yet still the drama continued. After the Oxford team crossed the finishing line in a distant second, one of their team, Alex Woods, collapsed, and lay still for several minutes. Eventually it became clear that he was suffering from more than simply exhaustion and the medical team were rushed over. The Cambridge celebrations were cut short as Woods was rushed to hospital, before thankfully he was given the all clear the next day.

After returning home, Woods revealed he would be fine in a couple of days, and was more worried about ruining the day for the other team:

"I don't remember anything of the race after being aware of the blade breaking, and am obviously devastated at the way things turned out, but would like to congratulate CUBC for their win. I have contacted their crew and coach personally, to say that I'm very sorry that my collapse prevented their celebrations, and to thank them for thinking of me at the time. Such sportsmanlike behaviour is a real credit to all of their crew."

Below you can watch the highlights of the amazing race, which will live long in the memory (jump to see 3m40seconds to see the swimmer).

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