Team USA’s Two-Sport Star Blake Haxton Wins Silver Medal In Sprint Canoe Debut
by Chrös McDougall
Blake Haxton celebrates his Silver medal win for the Canoe Sprint Men's Va'a Single 200m - VL2 Final A at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on September 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
When Blake Haxton took up paracanoe he thought he might have an opportunity to compete in the sport at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. Instead he’s leaving the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a silver medal.
Haxton, the only U.S. athlete competing in two different sports in Tokyo — rowing and canoe sprint — won the silver medal in the men’s va’a single 200-meter VL2 event Saturday at Sea Forest Waterway.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) September 4, 2021
Haxton, a 30-year-old lawyer from Columbus, Ohio, made his Paralympic debut as a rower in 2016, the same year paracanoe debuted in the Games. Five years later he was back in the Games competing in both sports.
After opening the Paralympics by finishing 10th on Sunday in the men’s single sculls PR1M1x event, he turned his attention to paracanoe, having qualified in the va’a, a discipline new at these Games. The va’a is an outrigger canoe originating in Polynesia that has a support float on one side.
The transition from the rowboat to the canoe requires a shift in mindset, Hanson said.
“In rowing 2,000 meters in 10 minutes you’re not gonna decide the race in four or five strokes,” he said. “You won’t decide it at the start, and more or less you can make a few mistakes along the way and probably have the same result. (Canoe) is not like that all. You really need to be urgent, get on the front end and just try to hang on at the finish, so it’s definitely a shift in attitude a little bit.”
Haxton advanced from his heat on Thursday in second place, then won his semifinal on Saturday morning with a personal best time. In the late morning final, Haxton raced to a time of 55.093 seconds, placing him just 2.016 behind winner Fernando Rufino de Paulo of Brazil.
The Brazilian charged to an early lead and never let it go. Haxton made a late push to move into second place just before the finish line.
Fellow multi-sport U.S. Paralympian Kaitlyn Verfuerth also wrapped up her first Games as a paracanoeist by finishing 13th in the women’s kayak single 200-meter KL2 event Saturday. She previously competed in three Paralympics (2004, 2008, 2016) as a wheelchair tennis player, her best finish coming in 2008 when she finished fourth in doubles.
Verfuerth, a 36-year-old from Flagstaff, Arizona, competed in two events in Tokyo, taking ninth in the women’s va’a single 200-meter VL2 on Friday and wrapping up with today’s kayak event on the final day of canoe racing in Tokyo.
Verfuerth advanced to the va’a semifinal after finishing fifth in her heat on Thursday morning, but fell short of the final when she finished fourth in her semi, just barely over a second behind India’s Prachi Yadav for the final spot. Emma Wiggs of Great Britain, the 2018 and ’19 world champion in the event, ended up taking the gold medal.
Verfuerth also began the kayak competition Thursday, finishing seventh in her heat. She then took sixth in her semifinal on Saturday morning and then fifth in the B final an hour later.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.