Team USA star Blake Haxton wins silver in sprint canoe debut

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Blake Haxton celebrates his silver medal for the Men’s Canoe Sprint Va’a Singles 200m – VL2 Final A at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on September 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

When Blake Haxton started paracanoeing, he thought he might have the opportunity to participate in the sport at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. Instead, he leaves the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with a silver medal.

Haxton, the only American athlete to compete in two different sports in Tokyo – rowing and canoe sprinting – won the silver medal in the men’s VL2 200-meter va’a event on Saturday at Sea Forest Waterway.


Haxton, a 30-year-old lawyer from Columbus, Ohio, made his Paralympic rowing debut in 2016, the same year the paracanoe made his Games debut. Five years later he was back at the Games competing in both sports.

After opening the Paralympic Games by finishing 10th on Sunday in the PR1M1x men’s single scull race, he turned to paracanoe, having qualified in va’a, a discipline new to these Games. The va’a is a outrigger canoe originating from Polynesia which has a support float on one side.

The transition from rowboat to canoe requires a change in mindset, Hanson said.

“By rowing 2,000 meters in 10 minutes, you won’t decide the race in four or five strokes,” he said. “You won’t decide at the start, and more or less you can make a few mistakes along the way and probably get the same result. (Canoeing) is not like that all. You really have to be urgent, move on and just try to hang on to the finish, so it’s definitely a little change in attitude.

Haxton moved up from his run on Thursday to second, then won his semi-final on Saturday morning with a personal best. In the late morning final, Haxton clocked 55.093 seconds, placing him just 2.016 behind winner Fernando Rufino de Paulo of Brazil.

The Brazilian took a quick lead and never let go. Haxton made a late push to move up to second place just before the finish line.

Her American multisport Paralympian colleague Kaitlyn Verfuerth also concluded her first Games as a paracanoe, finishing 13th in the women’s 200-meter KL2 single kayak event on Saturday. She has already competed in three Paralympic Games (2004, 2008, 2016) as a wheelchair tennis player, her best result in 2008 when she finished fourth in doubles.

Verfuerth, 36, from Flagstaff, Ariz., Competed in two events in Tokyo, taking ninth place in the women’s 200-meter VL2 singles va’a on Friday and finishing with today’s kayak event on the final day canoe races in Tokyo.

Verfuerth qualified for the va’a semi-final after finishing fifth in her race Thursday morning, but did not reach the final when she finished fourth in her semi-final, just over a second from the Indian Prachi Yadav for the last place. Emma Wiggs of Great Britain, the 2018 and 2019 world champion of the event, ended up winning the gold medal.

Verfuerth also started the kayaking competition on Thursday, finishing seventh in their heat. She then finished sixth in her semi-final on Saturday morning, then fifth in the B final an hour later.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to see the medal table and the results.



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