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I’m just Ken(ny)

Introducing Kenny Coplan, the most recent Hughesian to join a triumphant history of Boat Race crew members.

Previous oarsmen and women include international athletes, national record holders and Olympians.

He joins fellow Hughesians – and 2022/3 Blue Boat veterans – Thomas Lynch and Noam Mouelle in the best seats in town this Saturday. We spoke to him about his journey to Hughes Hall, his studies and how best to juggle the pressures of sporting and academic greatness.

Kenny, 24, is an American student working for an MPhil in the History of Art and Architecture.

Tell us about your background

I am originally from Montclair, New Jersey, USA. I lived in Beijing when I was 12 years old because my mother was a Fulbright professor. Through my time living in China I became interested in art history and Chinese art. I studied History of Art for my undergrad at Harvard.

Spot the Hughesians: Men’s Blue Boat crew for the 2024 Boat Race on Saturday, 30th March. Image credit Nordin Catic.

Have you rowed for a long time?

I started rowing at age 14. My parents signed me up for a summer ‘learn to row’ program at my high school and I reluctantly agreed. I rowed in high school for Montclair High School, for my undergrad at Harvard, for the United States on the junior and U23 national teams, and currently for Cambridge. Some rowing accomplishments include: a bronze medal at the 2016 World Rowing Junior Championships in the coxed four, silver medal at the 2021 World Rowing U23 Championships in the eight, bronze medal at the 2019 IRA National Championships in the varsity eight, raced at Henley four times (2017-2019, 2023).

What are you studying now?

I am currently doing my MPhil in History of Art. I am writing my dissertation on a collection of reverse painted mirrors painted in the 18th century in Guangzhou, China. The museum has 15 of these mirrors and my supervisor is Dr. James Lin, curator of Chinese art at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

From left: Noam Mouelle, Thomas Lynch and Kenny Coplan, ahead of the race in the MCR Clubroom at Hughes.

How have you found Cambridge and the Hughes Hall community?

I have really loved my time at Cambridge. It took some time to get used to the winding roads that change names every few hundred meters! But I really appreciate the history and traditions in and around the university. Hughes Hall has also been wonderful: the people in this college are incredibly kind. It’s always very fun to pop my head into the MCR room and see who is around!

Tell us about your typical daily schedule and how do you juggle the demands on your time?

Rowing takes up a lot of my time. During the term I am waking up just after 5AM twice a week and just after 6AM four times a week. When we go row in Ely sometimes, we spend seven hours away from Cambridge. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep is essential. Studying can be difficult given the demands of training but I’ve found sleep is most important, as is doing a lot of work on my day off from training.

How do you feel about Boat Race selection?

Boat Race selection can be stressful. We are very lucky to have a deep squad this year and it is never enjoyable competing against your friends for seats. The best part has been seeing the growth of the boat and squad throughout the process and the worst part has been competing against some of your closest friends for spots in the boat.

Studying and rowing at Cambridge has been a dream come true. The training has been quite intense, but I’ve been savouring every moment of it. I’m very excited for Saturday and incredibly grateful for all the support from the Hughes and Cambridge community!

Kenny’s advice for those thinking of coming to Cambridge: “Cambridge is one of the few places in the world where you can study and row at an elite level. 100% come, you won’t regret it!”

Best of luck, Kenny and the team! Find out how to watch the Boat Race here by broadcast or in person.

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