Undercover: Cambridge Blues
Infiltrating the team.
Every week your Lifestyle editors will brave life and limb (in this week’s case literally) to go undercover with a Cambridge tribe. This week it’s Cambridge blues.
As far as Cambridge tribes go, the Blues are extreme high-achievers. Not content with just intellectual prowess, they go a step further and pursue physical excellence (no, we don’t get why either). They have their own language (Blues, Half-Blues, Colours, Hawks and Ospreys), their own watering holes (Wilberforce Road, the University Sports Centre) and their own physical identifiers (mainly stash – lots and lots of stash).
Alex – The Cambridge University Athletic Club
When Leyla suggested that we go undercover with the sporty crowd, I can’t say I was overjoyed. Nowadays I very much enjoy working out (in large part because it gives me a legitimate excuse to wear activewear) but any mention of teams sport or athletics brings up traumatic school-time memories of mud, sweat and tears.
Pole vaulting was not, however, something that my school offered and I had only a vague understanding of what it entailed. So I looked it up. It seemed really quite terrifying and highly likely that I would break at least one or possibly all of my limbs.
The taster session was on a Saturday morning. It started at 12, so I had to miss brunch. This was a tragedy – breakfast food is one of the greatest joys in my life. Also it was raining. Such pathetic fallacy. From Sidney, the walk to the sports centre is not a short one. By the time I arrived the drizzle had frizzed up my hair so that I resembled an electrocuted Pomeranian. Everywhere I looked there were little groups of sporty people doing intimidatingly sporty things. I realised that they would all be present to see me make a fool of myself.
Once the little group of pole-vaulters got together, I started to feel a little better. It turned out that most of us had never done it before, which was comforting and I started to feel less self-conscious. We did a little run to warm up and then loads of weird exercises involving lots of hopping and lunging and swinging of arms.
Before actually vaulting, we had to get the technique right. You really have to launch yourself into space, putting your whole weight into the pole and trusting that it won’t slide. Except that, because of the rain, it did slide, so much so that one guy fell flat on his face. He handled it with exceptional grace. Once we had sort of got the hang of it on the ground, we took to the high bar. A couple of the actual squad were practising and their moves were seriously impressive. Mine – not so much. I could barely clear the bed, let alone a bar.
They soared in high graceful arcs – I hopped like a bunny with a sore paw. Even though the coach had to basically push me off the ground, he was very kind. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like as much of a fool as I looked. Which was kind of nice.
Leyla – The Cambridge University Olympic Gymnastics Club
Don’t let the word Olympic put you off of going to one of their try-out sessions – despite the professionalism it implies they do welcome beginners.
The training session started off well enough, once we made the trek all the way out to the sports centre (it’s out near West Cambridge. Seriously.). Their version of a ‘warm-up’ was a little hardcore, but nothing really requiring flexibility. It lulled me into a false sense of security, before they suddenly started putting up all types of complicated-looking structures (vaults, beams, pommels, the works).
We decided to approach the mat session first, because it looked the most welcoming and the least technical. The first few rounds of cartwheels were easy enough, until the dreaded moment came for me to try a round-off. I started well enough, but it all went wrong halfway through and I heard a thud as I landed on the mat, managing to do the opposite of a belly flop.
Needless to say I sat the rest of the session out, watching as gymnasts around me completed feats that should be inhuman. Once the session ended, I limped my way out of the sports centre and began the trek back to town for their social. This was essentially a pre-drinks, but it lasted until 3am and involved a round of ‘ring of fire’ with a few modifications – namely, completing various somersaults, round-offs, cartwheels and other moves I can’t name while drunk.
I left the social (and my budding gymnastics career) at midnight, convinced that Blues are a different species altogether.
All in all we think we’ll stick to just watching the Olympics every four years to get our fill of competitive sports #Tokyo2020.