Blake Haxton competes at Rowing's U.S. Paralympic Team Trials on April 14, 2021 in West Windsor, N.J.
Paralympic rower Blake Haxton had not been out of his town of Columbus, Ohio since the pandemic started more than a year ago. So when he got the call that trials had been moved up a day, he was in his car and on the way to New Jersey.
Haxton planned to get in at least one practice on site at the Caspersen Rowing Center before his race on Thursday. But with high winds in the forecast, everything was moved up a day.
“We didn’t get to test the equipment, the oars, nothing,” said the 30-year-old, who placed fourth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 in the men’s arms and shoulders single sculls. “So that was a little worrisome, but it all worked out.”
In total, three Para classes were contested on Wednesday. Haxton — who raced uncontested in the men’s single sculls — and three other Para-rowers secured their spots to Tokyo.
“It feels a little surreal after this year,” Haxton said, “but it feels really good. I haven’t raced in a year and a half, which is the longest time I’ve been out of the boat in maybe six or seven years. So that’s been a weird shift in time. It was like there was a pause button hit last year and now we’re hitting play again.”
But fast forward to Tokyo and Haxton hopes to be named to two Para sports: rowing, and canoe.
“Next I’m trying to make the sprint canoe team, and the last qualification regatta before Tokyo is in Hungary in May. So that’s definitely the focus for the next month is seeing if I can get qualified in that.”