Most 18 year olds are full of mixed emotions when it comes to moving away from home and attending their freshman year of college. Incoming Buckeye rower Claire-Louise Bode is no different. However, there is one glaring difference for Bode. She will travel approximately 8,368 miles from Johannesburg, South Africa, to fulfill both her collegiate and rowing aspirations. In the following Q&A, Bode talks about her decision to attend Ohio State and leaving the comforts of home, what challenges she expects in the coming months and of course the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
One of the obvious questions is you are moving far from home to compete collegiately in the United States. What would you consider the biggest factor in your decision to attend Ohio State?
Well I have made comparisons between universities not only for the rowing, but the academic part of it played a big part as well. Ohio State came out on top as they have good academic courses and a really good rowing support structure too. This will allow me to grow into a great athlete and reach my dreams.
What is your mindset right now? Are you nervous about traveling so far from home, yet excited?
I am nervous about the distance, but I have had many months to prepare myself for this far move. I am also on the other hand very excited, I can’t wait to experience new things and see new places in the process. So I think that my mindset is in a really good place.
How is your family dealing with you moving to the United States?
My family is really happy for me as this is a great opportunity and they support my decision. But I can see that I will be missed at home especially by my younger brother – he has already begun saving up to come and visit me soon.
Rowing in college in the United States is more team-oriented as opposed to individual successes. How do you think you will adjust to the different competitive environment at Ohio State?
I have been more involved in team-oriented rowing this past year and I also play team netball. I am very comfortable working in the team and we share all pains and gains together. And judging by all the friends I have made I would like to continue with that and I would like to meet more people who are like minded in university. On national camp just before I left for U23s in July, I was part of a squad of nearly 30 people and we all had to work well as a team to make it through camp still sane and looking forward to the next challenge.
Although you will be a freshman, what are your best skills and experiences you think you will bring to help the Ohio State rowing team?
My most prominent skills are being able to make friends and have conversations easily. But being a hard worker and doing things to the best of my ability could bring help. As I have learned in the past that if you do something well, someone else will see that it is not as bad or hard as they first have made it out to be.
What do you think some of your biggest challenges attending college in the United States and rowing for Ohio State will be and how will you try to overcome those challenges?
Well climate will be a challenge for me. In South Africa the climate is warm and in winter (when we do most of our national training) the temperature does not drop below zero on most mornings and our dam does not freeze over. It’s just going to take some getting used to. But I do love the snow! The change in culture will be another challenge, but I am willing to experience and learn new things. So each day, one step at a time I will overcome my challenges.
You recently competed in the Under-23 World Championships and finished fourth in the A Final. What did you learn from that experience and of course did you have fun?
I learned that if you train hard you can go far in racing. Also, not to stand back or underestimate myself in light of international competition. I learned that you shouldn’t write off crews or make them greater than what they are before race day. Instead to take every race as it comes because on that start line everyone is racing for personal victory. It was fantastic to be rowing against crews that set up new world records. I had the greatest amount of fun and I really enjoyed the course, the new country and making new friends.
The world’s biggest sporting event in the FIFA World Cup played out in your home country of South Africa earlier this summer (or winter for you). Did you have an opportunity to attend any matches? If you did, what was it like? Can you describe the atmosphere in general?
Too bad the whole world could not be sitting in that stadium! I had the opportunity to attend the first group game for Netherlands vs. Denmark in the newly built Soccer City Stadium. The experience alone was extraordinary and the vibe everyone in that stadium had was amazing. It was like all differences were put aside and we all had one thing in common- we cheered for a team. South Africa really did a fantastic job of hosting the World Cup. I was blown away by the atmosphere; you really had to be there to experience it. It’s just not the same as watching it on TV. And when someone scored!! That whole stadium would roar with sounds and cheers and vuvuzelas. It was truly amazing to have been there.
p.s Netherlands was my team from day one- was so sad that they lost in extra time in the final!
As you’re packing and preparing for the plane ride to Columbus, what is the one thing you have to bring with you to the United States?
I think that the one thing has to be photographs of friends and family. As they say – a picture says a thousand words and has the ability to bring back great memories. Oh yes and a South African flag!