Blake Haxton competes at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 9, 2016 in Rio.
Haxton not only represented the United States as a rower at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games; he was good enough as a first-time competitor to fight for a medal, finishing fourth in the PR1 men’s single scull, a 1,000-meter race, which was introduced at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
He will do it again in Tokyo, except the distance has been doubled since 2017 to match the Olympic distance of 2,000 meters. This will mean a greater physical challenge as well as a revised tactical approach for the new length.
In the years since Rio, he added another type of paddling to his repertoire: speed canoeing.
“I really enjoy canoeing,” he says. “It’s a fun event. It’s 200 meters – not a mile and a quarter like in rowing – so it’s fun to run.
With the addition of paracanoe to the Tokyo 2020 curriculum, the Ohio State University Law and Business graduate began to consider the possibility of doing both events by Paris 2024. Once again even his progress surprised himself.
In 2019, having just started the sport, Haxton competed in the Sprint Canoe World Championships and narrowly missed qualifying for Tokyo.
Then came the pandemic and a one-year delay that allowed Haxton to undergo further training on the racing canoe, a single paddle steamer designed for a 200-meter sprint.
“The extra year has definitely helped,” he said. “It gave me a lot more time to get up to speed. If I could do both, this would be a dream come true situation.
And so it was. He secured his Paralympic place for canoeing in the last possible qualifying regatta last May in Hungary.
“To be able to compete in two – and hopefully one of these days – that would be fantastic,” he said.