COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As athletes make their way to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games starting Aug. 24, central Ohio rower Blake Haxton is the only Team USA athlete set to compete in two events.
The Ohio State University athlete will be heading to his second Paralympic Games in rowing, but this year, he also qualified in sprint canoe. Haxton said he set a goal to compete in two events in the 2024 Paris Paralympic games. However, when the 2020 games were postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it gave him an extra year to train.
“I actually feel very fortunate that I had training to kind of lean back on because, you know, between the canoe and the single, I’m the only guy in the boat, so I train alone anyway,” Haxton said.
“Through quarantine and all of last year and this year, it gave me something to do,” he added. “Weren’t sure the games were going to happen, but I at least had some activity I could focus on and invest in.”
Haxton’s journey towards becoming a Paralympian started in high school when a bacterial infection forced surgeons to amputate both of his legs. Now, at age 30, he becomes the first American athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in both rowing and sprint canoe.
“I’m definitely stronger, the canoe is only a 200-meter race, so it’s just a flat-out sprint, and of course rowing is 2000 meters, and that’s about 10 minutes for me, so these are really different disciplines,” Haxton said.
Haxton says after making his debut at the games in rowing in 2016, he welcomed the challenge of training to compete in two different events.
“I’m stronger in certain ways than I hadn’t been just because I’m working a lot more fast-twitch, and I’ve got to move the boat a lot quicker,” he said. “I don’t know what impact that’s quite going to have on rowing, hopefully a good one, but I might also just also flame out after 200 meters, so we’ll all find out together.”
Although Haxton said he’ll miss having friends and family in Tokyo to cheer him on, he feels grateful for all the support he receives back home in central Ohio.
“Columbus is a great hometown, and I appreciate all of the support from everybody, it feels really great to know that people are really pulling for me,” Haxton said.
To learn more about watching Haxton compete, click here.