Blake Haxton Profiled.

Blake, thanks for chatting. First of all, how is preparation for Rio going?

Preparation is going well, thanks. I finished school about a month ago and took the Chartered Financial Analyst Exam last weekend, so I’ve finally been able to devote more of my focus to rowing.

What first got you involved with rowing, and why did you choose to pursue the sport to such a high level?

I started rowing when I was 14 and I joined my high school’s rowing team. I was hooked right away and really loved the sport. I rowed for my high school team for three and half years, right up until I got sick during my senior year.

How do you qualify as a Paralympian? Can you talk me through that?

Qualification for the Paralympics runs in a similar fashion as qualification for the Olympics. A number of spots are awarded to top finishers at the worlds the year prior to the games, and then there is a last­chance regatta to qualify during the Paralympic/Olympic year. For the Arms and Shoulders singles, eight spots are up for grabs at worlds and then four more are selected the following year. I was fortunate enough to get one of the qualification spots at worlds, so that only left the U.S. trials regatta (in April) in order to actually make the team. Of course that race is winner take all, and again I was fortunate enough to win and punch my ticket to Rio.

You finished fifth at the world championships last year. What were your feelings after the race, and how did that reflect your season as a whole?

I was disappointed with the race, but I was much more disappointed with the shape I was in. It turns out that I had a broken rib which became more and more of a hindrance over the course of the regatta. I don’t feel like I was really able to give the finals my best effort and that was unfortunate.

There aren’t many events available for para­rowers to compete in through the year. Which do you attend?

These last two years I’ve only attended our U.S. Trials and the world championships.

You regularly feature towards the top end of the ASM1x. How well do you know the guys you compete against, and do you learn from them?

I‘ve gotten to know a couple of the guys a little bit over the past couple of years and there are certain people you really learn a lot by watching. Since disability varies so much among the athletes it’s really up to everyone to figure out what works best for them.

What is your favourite training session?

I do 20 lots of 40 seconds bursts and then 20 seconds off, which I really like because it is a high intensity workout. It’s probably the most aggressive workout I do and it’s a great way to do some high­end work in a short amount of time.

Where is your favourite racing location?

I thought Aiguebelette was the most beautiful, but I would have to say that the Charles river is still my favorite place to race. I got to row at the head of the Charles three times in high school and it was just fantastic.

Your only experience of international competition is two world championships. Do you believe that is an advantage or a drawback approaching Rio?

I think there are positive and negative aspects to my lack of racing experience although at the moment I’m trying my best to just focus on the positives. I certainly think racing experience is valuable, but it’s also easy to worry too much about what the competition is doing and not on what’s going on in your own boat.

What are your aims for Rio and what are you most looking forward to?

My goal for Rio is to make the A final, and then to just let it rip and see what happens. If I’m lucky enough to get that far I think I’ll come away feeling like it was a successful games. As far as Rio goes, I can’t wait to check out the scenery. I actually have quite a few friends that are coming down for the games and I can’t wait to spend time with everyone just enjoying the atmosphere of the whole thing.

Matilda Bywater

Having rowed for a number of years, Matilda has decided the sport may be better observed from the bank as opposed to the bows of a coxed four. Having finished school in the summer of 2015, she is now pursuing journalistic opportunities with a number of publications on her gap year. She is also planning to visit three continents in the space of six months.

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