A rower originally from Winnipeg has won the race of his life, as a member of the Oxford University crew that won the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race on the River Thames on Sunday.
Tom Watson grew up in Winnipeg but is rowing for Oxford in the 160th annual Boat Race, which pits Oxford against Cambridge in a gruelling 6.8-kilometre race on a horseshoe-shaped stretch of the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake in southwest London.
The Oxford crew, known as the Dark Blues, defeated the Light Blues of Cambridge by 11 lengths in 18 minutes and 36 seconds, according to the event's website.
"It's an honour to be part of it. It has a great tradition," Watson told CBC News before the race.
"I think you have to allow the atmosphere on the day to help you get through the course … to the finish line."
The traditional boat race is a hotly contested point of honour between Oxford and Cambridge universities, and Cambridge still leads the series 81-78, with one tie.
Watson said his crew would be buoyed by the approximately 250,000 spectators at the race site, as well as the 130 million people expected to watch the event on television.
"It's pretty neat for us in rowing," he said. "The two big events would be the Olympics and then, in terms of viewership, the boat races — having 130 million worldwide follow it, which is incredible for us."
The 25-year-old Watson, whose parents attended Cambridge, learned to row at the Winnipeg Rowing Club before heading west to study biology at the University of Victoria. He stroked Oxford's reserve Isis crew to three wins over the last three years.
Watson is part of a Canadian contingent at the Boat Race: Canadian Olympian Malcolm Howard led the Oxford crew, known as the Dark Blues, in what has been a memorable week for him.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Howard's 2008 Olympic champion men's eight crew will enter Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in June.
The 31-year-old from Victoria, now in his 16th year of rowing, also won Olympic silver with the Canadian men's eight in 2012 and has captured gold and silver at the World Rowing Championship (silver in the 2004 men's coxed fours and gold in the 2007 men's eight).
Oxford teammate Tom Swartz, 24, has dual American and Canadian citizenship. His mother is Canadian but he grew up in the U.S.
The Oxford crew also includes two New Zealanders, an American and three Brits.
The Cambridge boat features four Americans, three Brits, a German and Australian.
More than seven million watched the BBC broadcast of last year's race with millions more tuning in around the globe. The crowd on the banks of the Thames has been estimated at 250,000.