Frivolously Friday: Cambridge, 1898

5 March 2021

By Göran R Buckhorn

For the 1897 Boat Race, Oxford were clear favourites. Cambridge had a good crew and had high hopes to win, breaking the Dark Blues’ winning streak since 1890. In the beginning of the race, Cambridge had a slight lead, but at the Mile Post Oxford took off and at Hammersmith Bridge there was clear water between the crew. Oxford won the race by two and a half boat lengths.

In September the same year, the satirical Punch, or the London Charivari published a funny illustration how the 1898 Cambridge crew would look if ‘Sandow, the strong man’ would be in charge of the Light Blues’ training, using ‘his own system’.

Eugen Sandow, ‘the strong man’

‘Sandow, the strong man’ was actually Eugen Sandow (1867–1925), who was born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, a Prussian known as the ‘father of modern bodybuilding’. He began his career as a circus athlete, but soon shifted over from lifting heavy obstacles to flexing his muscles. On it says: ‘Sandow’s resemblance to the physiques found on classical Greek and Roman sculpture was no accident, as he measured the statues in museums and helped to develop “The Grecian Ideal” as a formula for the “perfect physique.”’ Read more about Sandow here.

View a short clip from 1894 on Sandow showing off his body art:

In the article “The Making of a Rowing Blue”, published in The Tatler on 5 March, 1902, Walter ‘Guts’ Woodgate wrote: ‘The Farnese Hercules would be a duffer in the boat; he has too much arm and shoulder and too light a loin in proportion. He would try to do all his work with arms, especially with biceps, and would be a bad choice for a torpid or lower division eight.’

The Light Blues never asked Sandow to coach them, and they lost the 1898 Boat Race. However, Sandow did help rowing and other sports by publishing a paper, Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, which had some well-written articles on all kinds of different sports.

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