(Reuters) - Double Olympic champion James Cracknell is set to become the oldest person to compete in the Varsity boat race, with his Cambridge crew ranked as firm favorites to win the event on Sunday.
The 46-year-old retired from competitive rowing in 2006 but qualified for the event because he is studying a Master of Philosophy degree in human evolution at the University.
Cracknell, who won Olympic gold at Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, would also become the most decorated man to row in the annual contest between Cambridge and Oxford.
British bookmaker William Hill said Cracknell’s inclusion has steered Cambridge from 11/10 outsiders to firm favorites at 1/5. Oxford are 7/2 to win the race.
“We aren’t sure whether it is the presence of James Cracknell in the Cambridge boat that has persuaded punters to part with their cash or the fact that people think they are much better,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
“Regardless of the reason, 62 percent of all bets and 95 percent of all the money placed on the race has been for Cambridge.”
Cambridge won all four races against Oxford last year, triumphing in the men’s, women’s and both reserve crew races at the event held on River Thames.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis