Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Oskar the grouch wins a blue for his language

The Oxford University's cox Oskar Zorrilla is thrown into the Thames by his team mates as they celebrate winning the 159th Boat Race on the River Thames, London

The Boat Race – posh, sinewy, educated men messing about on the river watched by thousands of toffs and bemused ordinary folk – is a throwback to a bygone age of the Corinthian spirit of fair play, amateur dedication and a jolly good time had by all. And then you let an American in.

While the BBC desperately tried to make one of the ever-dwindling number of British bluebloods the star of the show, that honour belonged to Oskar Zorrilla who, at a lofty five foot four (in his wellies) did little to dispel the myth that short men have a bit of a temper.

Things were thankfully not going as swimmingly as last year when one eejit stopped proceedings for going for a quick dip, but with the Royal Marines patrolling the Thames was I the only one hoping that someone had decided to whip on a pair of Speedos to test their reactions?

They probably wouldn't have had the chance as Oxford cox Oskar would have reached inside his wellies and whacked him over the head with his megaphone.

It is a changed world in which we live. Who would have thought a man with dual citizenship of the USA and Colombia would be joined in the boats by a Czech and a clutch of rowers from the antipodes?

Even more remarkably, from 2015 they'll be allowing women along too, and not just to make the Pimms and cucumber sarnies either. They'll be competing.

The fairer sex were already there in force, though, Clare Balding the safe hand on the tiller for the day's proceedings – although an hour's build-up was even stretching her capabilities – while she was joined by Katherine Grainger, once a silver lady and now a golden girl as the Olympic legacy keeps on giving.

"I seriously wouldn't want to be out there in Lycra today," said a chattering Clare, as minds boggled across the land, but not as much as when she announced that Helen Skelton, somehow, was back on BBC Sport after her Olympic stint.

Bedecked in ironic cloth cap and an orange jumper that Peter Robinson wouldn't wear, she was despatched to speak to the ordinary and no so ordinary folk on the banks of the river and it was fitting that she spoke to the tall, brainy one off Pointless.

Back to Clare, and Katherine teasing her for wondering why competitors don't wear gloves.

"The more you do, as you'll find out when you get into this sport properly, then your hands toughen up," she said, with Clare blurting out 'I did a term of rowing' although was thrown out for trying the bring a horse on board.

From boats and horses it was then off to golf and dinosaurs as rival rowers George Nash and Constantine Louloudis took part in the first Varsity Crazy Golf challenge, before we then got to speak to their respective mums who tied in the Varsity Poshest Ladies competition.

If only they'd had grouchy wee Oskar under their wings at some stage as the race finally got under way and the decision to put a microphone beside him unleashing the sort of language not heard on the Thames since the docks were in full flow.

Commentator Andrew Cotter, who found the conditions too rough for his liking at the rugby in Rome a few weeks ago, was faring better on water, but was left feeling a little green by Oskar's blue language.

Apologising on numerous occasions for Oskar's subtle indication to his crew that they should, perhaps, move ahead with full steam, they took this advice on board to sail home in victorious fashion.

Then came the full stop on the celebrations, the traditional dipping of the cox in the river, and wee Oskar was hurled into the murky waters, where he hinted that it was on the nippy side.

"It's f****** cold," he suggested, prompting Cotter to intervene.

"Oh Oskar, come on!," he started. "Apologies – again – but he is mildly hypothermic and slightly deluded with the champagne."

Indeed, but when the ladies arrive in two years time, this sort of behaviour will have to stop forthwith.

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