On-Campus Interview Series: A Baker Scholar

This edition of the Harbus sees 2004’s first faculty interview. At 6ft 6 inches, Assistant Professor Malcolm Baker has a commanding presence, but I quickly find out that he is a most personable and welcoming man. He is clearly popular with his colleagues – twice during our interview other faculty came in to ask him to ‘do lunch’ and both looked very disappointed when he had to decline due to this interview. Thanks for your time Doctor Baker!

Fact File: Assistant Professor Malcolm Baker
Height: 6 feet 6 inches
Weight: 200 pounds
Eyes: Green
Hair: Brown
Marital Status: Married with two children, Eloise (3) and Colin (10 months)
Favorite Food: Buffalo Wings
Favorite Drink: Guinness
Favorite Film: Happy Gilmore [Editors – for those of you who have not seen this seminal film on the trials and tribulations of becoming a top class sportsperson you’re missing out!]Favorite Band: Raffi

Harbus: What sport do you participate in?

Malcolm Baker: Rowing

Harbus: What teams have you represented?

MB: Brown University, the US National Team (1990-91) and the US Olympic Team (1992). I rowed in the eight man team event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. [Editors – The historic ’92 Olympics is notable for welcoming South Africa back to the games after 32 years and for being the first time that Germany competed under one flag since 1964.]

Harbus: Tell us more about the Olympics?

MB: The US historically does well in the eight man event, so we had high expectations going into Barcelona and were looking to get a medal. As it turned out we came fourth after Canada (a big surprise!) Romania, and Germany (expected). It was great to compete, but we were disappointed not to get a medal. In the Olympic Team Roster, Michael Jordan and I were listed at exactly the same height and weight. This proves that you have to be careful interpreting statistics….!

Harbus: How did you get selected for the Olympics?

MB: The US Olympic team is chosen by the trials method, which consists of three tests:

1. Concept II rowing machines- my personal best was 2000m in 6m.

2. Rowing in a pair- I was lucky enough to get a partner I row well with. We won the trials in the Spring of the Olympic year.

3. Final Pool of 12-16- row in combinations of 4s and 8s. The final eight man team is chosen from this pool.

It’s a stressful process, but it felt great to make the team. I didn’t have huge expectations of myself so qualifying was a bonus!

Harbus: So do you have to be rowing before you can walk in order to become an Olympic athlete?

MB: No way. In fact I didn’t even row at high school. In the 9th grade I was only 5’6* and didn’t have the proper physique for rowing. It all started at college, I got propositioned by the coach due to my height (I had grown 4 inches for the last 4 years) and after three months I knew I had found something that I was good at. My physiology helped me a huge amount. In most endurance sports (e.g. running and cycling) you have a severe weight penalty, but in rowing height is a lot more important.

o Editors – see accompanying interview of Luke Herbert for a depiction of this height.

Harbus: so it took you only three years from rowing your first boat to representing your country?

MB: Yes

Harbus: Amazing! Tell us about your best moment in the boat?

MB: Competing in the Olympics and winning the national championships as a Freshman were great moments. But I’ll always remember winning the 1993 Oxford-Cambridge boat race (held on the River Thames in London) for Cambridge. Cambridge had lost sixteen out of the last seventeen races and odds were 4-1 against us (amazing odds for a two boat race). It was great to win against such odds.

Harbus: What are the advantages of rowing as a sport?

MB: For me, it’s been the great friends I’ve made over the years. There are not too many endurance sports with such a big team element. It takes the whole team to bond together and perform to win a race.

Harbus: Do you still row now?

MB: Last year John Gibbons (OI) got me back into shape by persuading me to row again. But he hasn’t come knocking on the door yet this year…

Harbus: We think that Doctor Baker needs someone to get him back into rowing- any volunteers…?