Haxton Reaches Final, Two Crews Race For Paralympic Medals Sunday

Sept. 10, 2016, 6:41 p.m. (ET)

RIO de JANEIRO – From the time he began learning how to row the arms and shoulders single sculls, Blake Haxton has looked at every day as an opportunity to get incrementally better. 

Today, just three years into his career as an international Para rowing athlete, he edged a step further in that process and advanced into the final of the 2016 Paralympic Games on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas race course in Rio. 

“We said when we started this, that we would try to get one and one-hundredth of a second faster every day, or about three percent a year,” said Haxton of Columbus, Ohio. “I think we’ve done that.” 

Haxton finished second behind Great Britain’s Tom Aggar in Saturday’s repechage to take one of two advancing spots. Aggar won in 4:56.17 and Haxton finished in 5:03.43. The U.S. will now have two crews racing for medals in Sunday’s finals. 

Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.), Dorian Weber (Manhasset, N.Y.), Zachary Burns (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Danielle Hansen (Patterson, Calif.) and Jaclyn Smith (Williston Park, N.Y.) won their heat Friday, advancing directly to the final of the legs, trunk and arms four with coxswain. The U.S. faces South Africa, Germany, Great Britain, Canada and China on Sunday at 9:50 a.m. EST. 

In the single, Haxton and Aggar both broke into qualifying positions from the start of the 1,000-meter race. While Dutch sculler Alexander Van Holk pushed Haxton through the first 500 meters, he could not overtake the American and finished third in 5:07.87. 

“I feel we executed a pretty good race plan today, and now it’s anybody’s game in the morning,” Haxton said. “Tomorrow will be a really good benchmark for where we’re at, and we’ll try and get better from there.” 

Haxton faces Brazil, China, Ukraine, Australia and Great Britain at 9:10 a.m. EST. China’s Cheng Huang is the defending 2012 Paralympic champion. Australia’s Erik Horrie is the defending silver medalist and Aggar finished fourth in London. 

Saturday’s repechages also saw Jacqui Kapinowski (Tequesta, Fla.) in the women’s arms and shoulders single sculls and Helman Roman (Miami, Fla.) and Laura Goodkind (Santa Monica, Calif.) in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls. Neither crew advanced and they will race in the B finals on Sunday. 

Up first was Kapinowski, who started the first quarter of the race in second place, but was overtaken at 500 meters by Vauchok Liudmila of Belarus. Israel’s Samuel Moran won in 5:22.96. Liudmila was second in 5:45.38. Kapinoswki was third in 5:55.08 and will race Sunday in the B final against Argentina, South Africa, Korea, Italy and Hungary at 7:30 a.m. EST. 

“I’m disappointed,” Kapinowski said. “I went out there and gave it everything I’ve got. It’s tough competition and Israel and Belarus deserve their spot in the A final. Hopefully, tomorrow I will go into the race being very positive and try to win the B final.” 

Closing out the day for the U.S. was Roman and Goodkind, who raced in fifth place from the start and finished in 4:34.18. China won in 4:01.00. Ukraine advanced in second with a 4:04.42. Roman and Goodkind will race in the B final Sunday against Japan, Latvia, Brazil, Australia and Israel at 8:10 a.m. EST. 

“We gave it everything,” Roman said. “Being here has been wonderful. For the short time we have had training together, we’re doing our best and leaving it all out there.” 

For complete results, start lists and event details, visit World Rowing’s event page. 

For daily photographs of the 2016 Paralympic Games venue, Opening Ceremony and racing, visit USRowingphotos.com. 

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