“Bring it up! Come on! You came to win!”
The commands shouted at the top of his lungs, came out naturally from Anthony Kenny’s mouth to his teammates from the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.
At the MBA Tournament, popularly known as MBAT, Kenny had already completed the first of four 500-meter rowing challenges on an indoor rowing machine. Now the MBA candidate at Saïd would play coxswain, providing motivation to the three teammates who would follow him on the erg, successfully getting to a 2,000-meter finish before everyone else.
A ROWING CONTEST AS. INTENSE AS THE ANNUAL BOAT RACE ON THE THAMES
While the competition was in an anteroom of the big gym at HEC Paris’ campus, it had all the intensity of one of the biggest rivalries in sport: the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames.
The enthusiastic cheering and clapping from teammates filled the small room, spilling into the hallways. So were Kenny’s shouts of encouragement, no doubt practiced from his years in the Australian and British Armies, the latter where he served as a platoon commander.
With the Cambridge Judge Business School team in first place, Oxford was last to row today, and it did not disappoint. The players stood behind a row of free weights, watching in sullen silence as Kenny finished his run in a minute and 24 seconds, With each new Oxford player on the machine, Cambridge’s players saw their first-place lead slip sway.
OXFORD VS. CAMBRIDGE: THE ULTIMATE ROWING MACHINE BRAGGING RIGHTS
When it was done, Oxford would capture first place in rowing with a time of 5:53 minutes, vs. Cambridge’s 6:01. If it was any consolation, a second Cambridge team won third place, completing the race in 6:41.
This time, the bragging rights belonged to Oxford whose team is battling for its fifth consecutive win in the 32nd MBA Olympics at HEC Paris. This year’s event has 1,337 competitors and their partners in the hunt, with the largest team being fielded by HEC Paris with 264 players (see table on left). Last year, Oxford’s 220 competitors, from over 70 countries, topped the medal table, claiming 15 golds, 11 silvers, and 5 bronzes. HEC and London Business School followed in second and third place, respectively.
The winner of each competition, either individually or as a team typically gets 20 points; second place is awarded 15 points; third place, 10 points. If a school fails to place in the top three but still plays it earns 2 points. So the more competitions a school enters, the more likely his chances of winning the big trophy.
Oxford has a good shot of making it five in a row. While the final day of competitions will be tomorrow, the leading teams among the 16 business schools here are staking out their territory at the top of the standings.
By day’s end, Oxford broke its first-day tie with HEC Paris to edge ahead with 376 points vs. HEC’s 345. Cambridge was third with 249 points. Rounding out the top five are the London Business School (239 points) and ESADE (190). Only two other schools have racked up more than 100 points. They are IE Business School in Madrid (162) and the Rotterdam School of Management (146).
Few business schools come to MBAT as well prepared as the Oxford team. The women’s soccer team from Oxford, for example, had been practicing for six months, twice a week, before arriving in Paris. It lost to London Business School in the finals. One Oxford MBA confided that his team had been videotaping players to prep for the forthcoming tug-of-war over a pit of mud. “They really market MBAT as part of the course,” says James Naisbitt, who will graduate with his MBA from Saïd this July.
Some of the most aggressively fought games are still to come, including the men’s European football final, the last badminton and beach volleyball games, along with the final contests in dodgeball, cross-training, and cricket, during which three players, two from Oxford and one from Cambridge, have been injured, two requiring surgery. “There are a lot of fires to put, but it’s going great,” says Victor Heaulme, president of this year’s MBA Tournament who will graduate with his MBA from HEC in June of next year.
COMPETITIONS INCLUDE MARIO SUPER SMASH BROTHERS
While few of the 34 competitions here are merely for fun and enjoyment, not even Mario Super Smash Brothers or League of Legends, rowing is serious business, especially when it comes to Oxford and Cambridge. The members of both teams row on a regular basis, and several of them have been in the Thames River race.
“It takes power and strength to win,” says Clay Wilcox, a former consultant with L.E.K. Consulting in San Francisco who will earn his MBA from Saïd Business School this September. Like everyone else on the A team, he’s a serious rower, captain of Exeter College’s club rowing team. “It’s a lot of power and helps if you have long arms and legs. There will be 140 people back at Exeter happy about this.”
Every member of the Oxford rowing team is working toward their MBA. Khaled Mater had worked for Halliburton for more than eight years as a technical professional. He represented the New College rowing team at the Regatta competition, winning three races against three colleges. Andrew Wakefield who left a finance job with Highview Power, a semiconductor maker, had volunteered on the finance committee of the London Rowing Club.
Oxford also handily won the dance competition the evening before when each school can put on a stage a maximum of 16 players at a time during a performance that must last between 2.5 minutes to four minutes.
A DANCE COMPETITION SO LOUD LOCAL VILLAGERS CALLED THE POLICE
With smoke machines spewing the dance floor with a thick haze and multi-colored spotlights, the Oxford team mixed a wide variety of dance styles, from hip-hop to samba, to please an audience that cheered so loudly it was deafening.
Indeed, residents of the local village in Jouy-en-Josas, called the police to complain about the noise coming from what is normally a serene, country-like campus. When the French policemen came to the campus, 15 miles southwest of Paris, some students thought they were Chippendales about to perform a male striptease on the stage.
No such luck. The Battle of the MBA Bands on Friday night will now be held inside one of the many buildings on campus instead of the massive Big Top tent that took three weeks to erect.
DON’T MISS: AT HEC PARIS, THE MBA GAMES BEGIN or THE MBA OLYMPICS: ORGANIZING THE LARGEST GLOBAL GATHERING OF MBAs
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