Tag Archives: sport

Cath Bishop, former Olympic rower and Chair of CUWBC

Image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

On Saturday 11 April 2015 history will be made on the river Thames. For the first time since 1829 (first men’s race) and 1927 (women’s first race), the famous Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities will see men’s and women’s crews competing on the same day on the same stretch of the river between Putney and Mortlake in London. The Boat Race attracts 9 million viewers in the UK alone, and it is broadcast all over the world – it is a big deal. Whether you care for the sport or not, it is a tremendous step forward on the feminist agenda. It is a massive achievement for women’s sports, gender equality and the future. When glass ceilings shatter, only sky is the limit for women who are up for it.

On the eve of this important page in history, I met with a former British Olympic rower Catherine (Cath) Bishop, who is currently chairing the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC).

Catherine Bishop

Cath has had an incredibly diverse career. She studied German and Russian at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where she first got persuaded to try rowing. It was a sense of camaraderie that attracted her to the sport. After university Cath competed in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics. In 2004 she won a Silver medal, rowing in a pair with Katherine Grainger in Athens.

Cath studied for Masters in International Politics, got PhD in German and joined the Foreign Office. Just months after the Olympics she went to Sarajevo, which was the beginning of her career as a diplomat. Her next posting was to Basra.

“Iraq was the epicentre of the Foreign Office – everything was influenced by what was happening in the Middle East. I decided I had to see it for myself. We lived on a military base in sea containers; it was pretty rough and the danger was real. It was some experience.”

After Iraq, Cath moved to London.

“I found it hard to adjust. People worried about appraisals at work and getting rejected whilst bidding for houses in Fulham. I was just pretty glad I could take a shower every day!”

After rowing for Britain for a decade and working for the Foreign Office for 11 years, Cath set up her own consulting business, specialising in leadership and team performance. She helps corporate clients develop resilience of their teams, achieve high performance under pressure and make the most of human talent.

“Business world is a bit messier than the world of athletics, and we are not talking about matters of ‘life and death’ in air-conditioned offices, but I draw parallels from Basra and sport to help improve performance in the corporates.”

In her capacity as the chair of the CUWBC, Cath volunteers to help student athletes make the most of training opportunities whilst at university. It’s her way of ‘giving back’ for her own rowing experience as a student, which had changed her life.

Cath explains that with BNY Mellon becoming the main corporate sponsor in 2012, student rowers got access to better coaches, training facilities, body conditioning and nutrition advice. BNY Mellon is a parent company of Newton with Helena Morrissey, a gender equality champion, at its helm. Helena Morrissey made a call to increase funding for women to make it possible for them to compete on equal terms with men this year.

Helena Morrissey changed the game for female rowers. “At the first women’s race in 1927, The Times reported that “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” to heckle the crews. In 1962, in a letter to the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, the captain of Selwyn College at Cambridge wrote: “I personally do not approve of women rowing at all. It is a ghastly sight, an anatomical impossibility (if you are rowing properly, that is) and physiologically dangerous.” He added, “Wouldn’t you rather be playing tennis or something like that?!”” Cath remembers that in her days, women would not dream of training together with men. Now the crews go to the same training camps in the summer and have access to the same nutrition and other specialists. On 11 April 2015 women will race the same course as men. Perhaps in ten years’ time we won’t even think it was a particularly big deal.

A polyglot, an Olympic athlete, a diplomat, a motivational coach, a mother and a chair of women’s university boat club, Cath is an inspiration (her allegiance to the Cambridge blue notwithstanding..!). I asked her some personal questions, and this is what she shared with us:

What would you advise your 15-year-old self? I’d say do not waste time worrying about what others think, and do not worry whether you might fail or not – you will, and that will be an important part of any future success.

What are you good at? Pushing myself, leaving my comfort zone, always seeking improvement  at whatever I do.  Oh yes, and drinking champagne!

What is your greatest achievement? Good question – I don’t really see anything as a ‘great achievement’; I have always tried to do my best, and I’ve had some fabulous opportunities that have let me put myself to the test in various situations. Possibly my greatest achievement is that I have never given up, I have always kept trying, even after failing, and even after making lots of mistakes.

If you can do anything, knowing that you would not fail, what would you do? Write a bestseller.

Who inspires you? Lots of people – people who volunteer (and get no glory, recognition or thanks) to help those who are disadvantaged, disabled, suffering and generally neglected as the ‘losers’ in our society.  Big name role models would include Hillary Clinton, Katherine Grainger, Daley Thompson – anyone who has shown resilience, success under pressure and always had a good sense of humour.

Alla Ouvarova, co-founder of Two Chicks, mother and athlete

I meet Alla Ouvarova for lunch in Soho’s Café Boheme. As you would expect from a healthy diet evangelist, Alla, co-founder of the liquid egg white brand Two Chicks, looks lean and fit. She tells me about her morning run (14 miles) before the conversation turns to business. In the afternoon Alla and her business partner Anna Richey have a board meeting to discuss the launch of a new product, Chirps, egg white crisps. As a seasoned entrepreneur who launched  Two Chicks in 2006, Alla talks new product launch strategy, marketing and PR with such confidence that it would be worth packaging and pitching that to Selfridges as well.

In search of a better life… In 1991, when I was 10, my family moved to London from St. Petersburg in Russia. My father was a former professional player who started teaching tennis in Regent’s Park. He worked every day of the week, never taking time off, to support us and build a better life for us in Britain.

I really liked maths… It is fair to say that Russian, Eastern European and Asian students always choose to study Economics, Business, Engineering, rather than arts. I studied Economics at University College London and thought about a career in banking, when my friend Anna came up with an idea and offered me to start a business together.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel… Anna spent three months in LA and got hooked on egg-white omelettes. Egg white is fat free, cholesterol free, low in carbs and is an excellent source of protein. Many baking treats, such as meringues and macaroons, require separation of egg whites from egg yolks, yet back in 2006 you could not buy a carton of egg whites at a supermarket. Anna’s idea was simple: package free-range egg white into an easy-pour carton and market it to health-conscious consumers and bakers. Two Chicks was born.

Two Chicks

Anna Richey (left) and Alla Ouvarova (right)

On friendship and entrepreneurship… It is absolutely brilliant to work with your best friend! At the outset we recognised that we have different strengths, so we divided work accordingly.  When we started, I was responsible for finance and logistics, and Anna took on sales and marketing. As our business grows, we are both responsible for the overall strategy, so it helps to bounce ideas off each other and discuss matters with a person you trust.

Passion or spotting the gap in the market? The whole premise of Two Chicks was about the gap we have spotted in the market, but both Anna and I have always been interested in health and nutrition, which makes it a natural business area to be working in. I love sport, I play tennis, I run and I love racing. I need to make sure I eat enough protein, so both the liquid egg white I use for protein shakes and the egg white snacks (Chirps) are very much part of my lifestyle.

2014 Natwest everywoman National Awards.      Alla Tough Mudder

On balance and being a mother…  Keeping things in balance is difficult, as I am always running from one thing to another. I try to exercise 4-5 times a week and also find as much time as possible for my son Zac, who is six. Running my own business means I can pick Zac from school myself on occasion, then do some more work when he is asleep. I teach him tennis and golf, we go skiing together – I am lucky that he is passionate about sport as much as I am!

On Ladies Who Impress and role models… I really enjoyed listening to Susan Ma’s story at the November 2014 event. Perhaps it’s because I can relate to her story well, having immigrated to Britain myself and being an entrepreneur. To be honest, all the stories shared on the Ladies Who Impress website are fascinating: what an inspiration to read about women taking on challenges and achieving something great.

Other than that, Margaret Thatcher was a particularly strong role model for me and many other women, who grew up in Russia.

 Favourite quote… “Well behaved women seldom make history.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Meet investigative psychologist and sky diver Tamar van Dijk

IMG_8452I am in Tayrona National Park, making my way back from the Lost City, ruins of an ancient settlement, discovered in Colombia in 1976. I am with a group of travellers from Colombia, the US, Canada and Europe. A big lad in his early twenties is attempting to cross the river using a pulley rope bridge. He is huffing and puffing, making the show of it, but never quite leaving the bank. Most of us have already crossed the river barefoot, which was mildly inconvenient but relatively fuss-free. A fit young woman next to me says to no one in particular: “He is just waiting for someone to tell him not to do it.” Sure enough a moment later we hear “Oi, leave it, they probably need the pulley this side of the river” and the grateful backpacker runs down to the stream, his bravado gone, his relief barely hidden.

Perhaps it does not take an overqualified psychologist to read a man’s mind but Tamara was spot on, so forgive me the side story. Please meet Tamar van Dijk (not her real name), a 28-year-old Dutch investigative psychologist who helps the police profile murderers and solve crimes.

Tamar grew up and lives in Haarlem in the Netherlands. “It is a very charming medieval city close to gorgeous beaches and sand dunes – it’s nothing like Harlem in New York!” After finishing school, she decided to become a cook and got a job in a restaurant. Tamar spent about six years cooking in some high-end restaurants in Haarlem, and at the same time she enrolled to study first economics, then psychology “to keep the brain cogs in motion.”

“I got a Masters degree in Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Criminology, covering law, psychology and sociology. At that point I realised I was more interested in criminal psychology and a career with a greater sense of purpose, so I stopped cooking and applied for a job as an investigative psychologist.” 200 other graduates applied. Tamar got in.

She took an additional course in investigative psychology at Utrecht, and was also sent to study Violent Criminal Behaviour with the FBI Academy in the US. “I had a plenty of theoretical knowledge straight after university but lacked practical experience. The FBI course was very helpful, although some of their methods seemed obsolete in comparison with what I had studied in the Netherlands!” I ought to mention that Tamar has decided to get a Law degree as well and is now half-way through the curriculum.

So what does an investigate psychologist do?

“I study files, help to investigate cases the detectives have trouble with. The work varies: murder, threat, stalking, sex offences etc. I often assist criminal interrogations, watching interviews with a psychotic suspect on a murder case. I analyse allegations of sexual offences,  advising criminal prosecutors on such aspects as false memories, false denials or false confessions. I am also one of the three psychologists on a team that works on stalking cases against public figures, like the Dutch royal family or politicians. They get threat letters, and we read and analyse them.  In many cases the writers are delusional, and we assist in getting them the right medical care. Finally, I advise local police on their efforts to prevent murder or violence from happening. For me it is the most rewarding field of work.”

Tamar enjoys a mental challenge, and having both a challenge and a sense of purpose are the most important aspects of her life.

Speaking of challenges, Tamar is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. She has always been active and adores being outdoors, but her idea of fun is perhaps of a kind some of us would refer to as ‘insane’. “Since I spend a lot of my time sitting in an office, after work I go out to race my motorbike or rock climbing.” Tamar spends her weekends mountain biking, kayaking, kitesurfing, wild camping or skydiving.

Tamar racing on her motorcycle

In early 2014 Tamar was on holiday in South Africa where she went sky diving in tandem. She loved it, and she also wondered how it would feel to jump solo… Back in Haarlem she saved up some money to start a sky diving course in the summer. Tamar got her sky diving license in August after theory lessons and seven qualifying jumps.  At the 20th jump she broke her foot at landing, but naturally she cannot wait for the summer season to resume diving.

Tamar 1Tamar 2   Tamar skydiving

“Flying in the air is the best feeling ever. Every morning I wake up hoping I have been transformed into a bird. Sadly, that hasn’t happened so far.”

Tamar learning to fly a plane

In case you are wondering, extreme sports do not take up all of Tamar’s time. “I also play saxophone (in a tango orchestra), read about astronomy, philosophy and neuroscience, I attend lectures, go to concerts, and I love spending time with friends and family.” Incidentally, Tamar has a twin brother, who is her opposite. “He prefers staying within his comfort zone…”

Tamar’s plans for the year is to go travelling on her bike. She is planning to cycle all the way to South East Asia, wild camping along the way. “I’d like to meet new people, perhaps help them out and, at the very least, make them smile.”

Meeting Tamar reminded me once again what Ladies Who Impress project is all about: to celebrate insanely impressive women and inspire all of us to aim higher and to challenge ourselves.

Interview with Jo Moseley who rowed 1,000,000 metres for charity

Jo Moseley is 49 years old. She lives in Skipton in West Yorkshire. Earlier this year she decided to embark on a bit of a challenge: to row 1,000,000 metres, a half marathon and then a marathon on a rowing machine to say Thank You and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support who have been looking after both of her parents. Listen to a 10-minute podcast with fabulous Jo!

If you’d like to support Jo Moseley and her tremendous challenge, you can donate via www.justgiving.com/onehappyrower

Jo is rowing a marathon in Ilkley Tennis Club on 21 December 2014. If you live nearby, do pop by and give her a cheer! You can also give her a shout on Twitter via @OneHappyRower

Jo Moseley

Interview with a paratriathlete Sarah Pearson

Sarah PearsonThis is Sarah Pearson, a chartered occupational psychologist from Devon. Her speciality is vocational rehabilitation: Sarah helps people overcome dramatic life events and return to work.

The photo above may give you a clue that Sarah’s profession is not the only interesting thing about her. She also loves competing in triathlons, a passion, she’s only discovered a couple of years ago. I gather, she is rather good at it.

Sarah also happens to have cerebral palsy, in her case not diagnosed until about 18 months ago. Sarah explains that previously she just thought she had “a dodgy left side”.

“My parents have always been brilliant at making me feel confident to have a go at things, so I grew up without feeling disadvantaged, even though I struggled a bit at school.”

Sarah Pearson competingParalympic triathlon is a novelty to the extent that it is making its debut in 2016 in Paralympic Games in Rio. The British Paralympic Association is still working out the triathlon categories to allow athletes with disabilities make the most of the sport. Sarah told me about the last British Championships with only three women competing in her category. Sarah came second.

The reason I think Sarah’s story is remarkable is because of her positive attitude.

“I am still not exactly sure how best to train with cerebral palsy but I am taking one day at a time. I am really hoping to do some international races this season.”

As a psychologist, Sarah applies her professional expertise to  her own training. Her advice is to focus on the positives:

“Negative thoughts can spiral you down, while positive thoughts can drive you forward. It’s about setting small goals, such as aiming to run for 10 minutes without stopping. Once you smash that target, recognise it as a positive thing. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up just because you had a bad day.”

Sarah’s positive energy is genuine inspiration. Best of luck with smashing all your goals!

You may wish to follow @SarahPearson70 on Twitter to hear about her racing, training, healthy nutrition and good old banter.