Kamal Elboghdadi is a fourth-year student studying economics; the president of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha; and a new member of the Varsity Blues men’s rowing team. Elbogdhadi sat with The Varsity to discuss his path to becoming a Varsity Blue, how he balances his time as a student-athlete, and his future. 

Elboghdadi’s interest in rowing did not begin at a young age — instead, it started when he joined U of T. As a kid, he did everything “from rock climbing to triathlons and wrestling,” he said. “[But] it was mainly soccer [growing up].” 

So, how did he get introduced to rowing? “It’s actually a funny story. I had no idea rowing was a thing,” Elboghdadi explained. He was first introduced to the sport in 2022 after one of his fraternity brothers pushed him to try out for the U of T novice program. 

The novice program encourages previously athletic individuals to undertake fitness programs, ultimately aiming to improve their cardiovascular fitness and strength. With vigorous training, the program attempts to shape them into rowers in a year. 

Elboghdadi was introduced to rowing in 2022. COURTESY OF BARRY MCCLUSKEY/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

Becoming a Varsity Blue

Elboghdadi’s first official season as a Blues rower began in early September; however, it required a great deal of self-discipline and time management skills. He credits his ability to manage all his extracurriculars to his meticulous time allocation, logging everything on a calendar. His motto is simple: “Time is finite, but you could include infinite things in it.”

When asked about his routine for training days, Elboghdadi said, “[I get up] at 4:30 am to brush my teeth, get down to the car, and drive to practice.” The team trains on Lake Ontario at 5:30 am and finishes their practice at 7:00 am. After that, he drives back to his place, with enough time to shower and eat before he goes to his classes. A second independent training session begins at approximately 5:30 pm. His strict schedule ensures that he can balance his studies and athletics and that he gives the best performance in everything he does.

Elboghdadi has learnt to manage his time efficiently. COURTESY OF BARRY MCCLUSKEY/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

“[The] offseason [was] where I became part of the rowing atmosphere,” Elboghdadi explained. He attributed this to the rigorous January 2023 training plan of the team’s head coach, Mark Williams. “He’s an incredible coach in the way [that] he pushes [the team] to their physiological max,” he explained.

During our interview, he highlighted how the Wednesday sessions were some of the hardest he’s faced throughout the January training plan, as they pushed the team to their mental and physical limit in hopes of seeing what they could exert. Nevertheless, according to Elboghdadi, it is an “incredible experience.” He believes that his physical ability and the team’s success are a result of hard work and continued support from his coaches and team members. 

Unlimited support

Speaking of support, when asked about his journey, Elboghdadi expressed his gratitude toward his parents — his role models who are always in his corner supporting him. “They’re always there for me, whether it’s two in the morning, [or] when I need to call them not feeling well, or whether [I need] food.” He knows their support is unlimited. 

Additionally, he credits his coaches for not only shaping him into the athlete he is but also for standing by his side, “ensuring [his success] and [his] health.” Similarly, his teammates always checked in on him, and he described the team as “a tight-knit community that felt like working alongside best friends.” 

The rowing team has become an important part of Elboghdadi’s life. COURTESY OF BARRY MCCLUSKEY/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

Lastly, Elboghdadi is grateful for his fraternity brothers. Not long ago, they would have been strangers, yet now, Elboghdadi calls them his family. “A lot of things have been made possible because of them,” he said — like his rowing. 

Chasing success 

When asked about his expectations for the season, Elboghdadi enthusiastically declared: “We’re going for the banner.” His excitement was evident as he spoke highly of the team’s strength and determination. He emphasized their shared goal of claiming victory and matching the women’s team who have been “sweeping every regatta.” The drive and determination demonstrate the true spirit of this team as they aim for success in the upcoming season. 

While he is currently in his fourth year, Elboghdadi will be taking the semester off to take on an internship at Scotiabank. As a result, he plans to return next fall for his last semester at U of T and row for the Blues once again. 

Furthermore, Elboghdadi recently made it to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Training Ground’s Top 100 athletes who are elected from all around Canada. RBC Training Ground is a program that seeks to identify exceptional athletes who have Olympic potential and offers athletes the resources and funding needed for an opportunity to compete for Team Canada. While Elboghdadi has made it to the Top 100, he hopes to make it to the Top 30, where athletes are given sponsorships. It could open many doors for him, including the possibility of competing with the Canadian under-23 national rowing team, something he greatly aspires toward. 

“It is very exciting but very nerve-wracking,” he said. “[But] it just goes to show the opportunities [I have] that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of if I wasn’t doing this sport.”