STORY BY ED MORAN
PHOTOS BY ED MORAN AND PAT KINGTON
Blake Haxton has been racing to win a Paralympic medal since 2014, and though he has made the final multiple times in the men’s PR1 single in international competition, the podium has always been just beyond his reach.
It took just two years on the world Paralympic canoe scene to accomplish that goal.
Haxton, who began competing in Paralympic canoe sprint racing in 2019 when he came to the conclusion that his physical limitations in rowing would not fully allow him to win a medal, achieved his goal Saturday at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Haxton won silver in the men’s Va’a single 200-meter VL2 Paralympic Canoe Sprint final on the Sea Forest Waterway Saturday morning. Haxton, who finished fourth in the men’s single in Rio in 2016, finished just behind Brazil’s Fernando Rufino de Paulo.
“It’s hard to believe, really,” Haxton said after being awarded his medal. “It’s been a hard few years, and I’m so grateful for the support of my family and friends. It’s such a fast field I feel so privileged to have made it.”
Haxton, a double amputee, could never really vie for a medal performance in rowing because the rules that govern para-rowing in his physical classification enable athletes who have legs a competitive advantage because they are able to achieve a greater stroke length.
But Haxton has continued to try and became a two-sport Paralympic athlete to go after his ultimate goal of winning a medal. Haxton just missed qualifying for the event in the Para Canoe Sprint World Championships in 2019. He then won a spot in the Tokyo Games this spring at the last chance qualification regatta in Hungary.
He is the only American two-sport athlete competing in the Toyko 2020 Games and placed fourth in the B-final, 10th overall, on Aug. 28 in the men’s PR1 single.
In three days of competition, Haxton finished second in his opening heat with the second-fastest time and then recorded a Paralympic best time of 54.576 in the semifinal. Rufino de Paulo eclipsed that time in the final in 53.077.
“It’s been a long trip through the two sports, and I wouldn’t be here without the people I’ve got back in Columbus,” Haxton said.