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Why is James Cracknell back at university and in Boat Race at a record breaking 46?

Published: 22:41 GMT, 16 March 2019 | Updated: 22:41 GMT, 16 March 2019 We get the easy laughs out of the way first. The announcement that he will row for Cambridge in next month's Boat Race only happened the day before but the theme surrounding it is well-worn already: James Cracknell is really, really old and the rest of his crew-mates are not. 'One of the guys in the squad is a qualified doctor,' says Cracknell. 'And I'm older than his dad.'Next, he smiles about the evening last term when he watched a documentary about the rock band, Nirvana, and its lead singer Kurt Cobain. The following day, he mentioned he had seen the band in concert when he was an undergraduate at Reading University in the 1990s. The other rowers met his boast with blank stares. Cracknell did some maths. 'Turns out Cobain was dead before any of them were born,' he says.Then there were the occasions he turned up for training wearing old kit from his early days as an international rower. He had a couple of vests given to him by rivals from Czechoslovakia and East Germany, countries that had ceased to exist before the other occupants of the Light Blue boat had come into the world. 'Once,' Cracknell told them, 'there was this thing called The Wall.'James Cracknell will return to rowing by representing Cambridge in the Boat Race next monthCracknell, who is studying for an MPhil in Human Evolutionary Studies at Peterhouse College, admits, too, he has had to ask his 15-year-old son, Croyde, to decode some of the text message acronyms sent to him by his fellow students.The idea he is living a chaotic teenage existence in a student pigsty is nice but fanciful, he says, although he admits to struggling to keep up with his washing.Cracknell, 46, who won gold medals in the coxless fours in the Olympics in Sydney and Athens in 2000 and 2004, has always had the kind of gentle humour and consistent talent for honesty and self-deprecation that make him immensely likable. But the truth is that the story of his quest to become the oldest man ever to row in the Boat Race is rooted in darker materials than a succession of funnies about the gap between the generations.RELATED ARTICLESShare this articleShareThere has always been something slightly wistful about Cracknell, too, as if he is chasing something he can never quite catch. His absurdly ambitious plan to win a place to study at one of the best universities in the world and defy the ageing process by rowing in the Boat Race is, he says, an attempt to rectify that restlessness and end the searching.He wants to do something with his life, he says, that does not revolve around being wheeled out every four years as a brand ambassador as the Olympics approach. He has done a lot of think-tank work on non-communicable diseases, particularly childhood obesity and the challenges that our lifestyles pose to the NHS and to society. The MPhil will bolster his credentials in this area. He wants the chance to influence policy. He wants to be able to help.He thinks about that as he sits at a table on the top floor of the Goldie Boathouse. I ask him if he is afraid of being still. Scared of being settled. He shakes his head. His motivation for committing to a frantic year of attainment that has led to long separations from his wife, the broadcaster, Beverley Turner, and his three children, he says, lies far away from the banks of the River Cam, by the side of a road outside Winslow, Arizona.Cracknell is studying for an MPhil in Human Evolutionary Studies at Peterhouse CollegeIt was there in July 2010 that Cracknell was struck on the head by the wing mirror of a truck that was overtaking his bike while he was in the midst of an attempt to cycle, swim and run across America in 18 days. It left him in a coma with a brain injury. His physical recovery went well. The mental challenges, including bouts of epilepsy and behavioural changes, were harder to overcome.Nearly nine years further on, it is not age that is his enemy, despite everything that has been written this week. He still feels he is fighting a battle of perceptions. His initial forays into politics five years ago were thwarted when he narrowly failed to win a seat in the European Parliament for the Conservative Party.As an accident survivor and an ex-sportsman, he feels as...

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See the news Why is James Cracknell back at university and in Boat Race at a record breaking 46? from Source Talk Sport on 17/03/2019 has been updated to day with the theme on feedixo.