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An Investment Analyst By Day, Blake Haxton Paddled To Paralympic Success As A Rower And Canoeist In Tokyo

by Bob Reinert

Blake Haxton competes in the men's va'a single 200-meter VL2 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 4, 2021 in Tokyo.


When Blake Haxton came out of the water after winning a silver medal in canoe sprint at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, his coach, Patrick Kington, told him he might have just written the first line of his obituary.
“We kind of laughed about it,” Haxton recalled. “Hey, that ain’t bad. That’s going to be the top line of my resume for quite some time. That’s pretty special.”
After years of hard work rowing in single sculls, the 30-year-old Haxton of Columbus, Ohio, had finally won his first medal — ironically, just three years after first getting into a canoe. In Tokyo he was Team USA’s only two-sport athlete, competing in single sculls rowing for the second Games in a row as well as the men’s va’a single 200-meter VL2 event in canoe sprint.
“It’s strange to finally get on the podium,” Haxton said. “Obviously, on the biggest stage is pretty special. It’s a change in perspective, for sure.
“I’ve been fourth so many times in rowing that I’ve gotten pretty good at not getting my hopes up. I’ve made a career out of being a day late and a dollar short.”
Haxton had long since come to terms with his limitations in rowing.
“I’ve basically known since 2014 that I didn’t have a shot at the top of the podium,” Haxton said, “or maybe a podium at all, on my best day.”
The canoe was another matter, entirely.
“I think physiologically, it’s a better match,” said Haxton, who lost his legs as a high school senior to Necrotizing Fasciitis, better known as the flesh-eating disease. Prior to that, he had been captain of the Upper Arlington High School rowing team and a Division 1 college prospect.
Not that Haxton didn’t have his share of success in Paralympic rowing. He had finished just off the podium in world championships, and after his Paralympic debut in 2016 he became the first adaptive athlete to be named USRowing Male Athlete of the Year.
Haxton and the canoe seemed made for each other, however. Though he had hurried to prepare for the 2019 world championships, he paddled well enough to see potential.
“I didn’t qualify for Tokyo on that trip but had a good enough run to see where the low-hanging fruit was, see that I could improve,” Haxton said. “So, I was really encouraged.”
Then came the pandemic, which for Haxton, “was a blessing in disguise. I spent the entire summer in the canoe. That bore out in the qualifier last spring.”

Blake Haxton celebrates with his silver medal following the men's va'a single 200-meter VL2 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 4, 2021 in Tokyo.


Haxton qualified for Tokyo in fourth place, the highest finish of any unqualified boat.
“I came out of the qualifier thinking if I have my best race, I think I can be in the medals,” Haxton said. “I believed I had a chance.”
In the Paralympic final at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway, five other boats finished within three seconds of the winner, Brazil’s Fernando Rufino de Paulo. Haxton paddled across the finish line 2.016 seconds behind the Brazilian.
“You run the final 10 times, I don’t know how many of them I’m second, to be honest with you,” Haxton said. “It was a good day for me, but that’s just how that race goes.”
Earlier at the Games, Haxton had placed 10th in the men’s single sculls PR1. 
“For rowing, I was shooting for (seventh to 10th),” Haxton said. “I’m pretty happy with 10th. If I had rowed that race perfectly, I don’t think I could have done any better.”
When he isn’t on the water, Haxton — who has a bachelor’s degree in finance as well as a law degree, both from Ohio State University — is an investment analyst for Diamond Hill Capital Management in Columbus. In fact, he continued working while competing in Tokyo.
“I love my job, and I love racing, and the fact that I get to do both is pretty unbelievable,” Haxton said. “I think they’re complementary.
“Part of it is having two different scoreboards to be on. We’re compared to the market every day, and we take that, obviously, very, very seriously, and we want to compete very well there. But then, of course, I want to go as fast as I can on the water.”
Going forward, that will probably mean focusing primarily on the canoe.
“It’s not quite the time commitment that rowing is,” Haxton said. “That makes it a little easier. It’s a different training regimen.”
Between work and training, Haxton has little time for other pursuits these days.
“Everything else but racing and work does get moved to the back burner a little bit, and that’s very intentional by me,” Haxton said. “These are the two things that I’ve got an opportunity to do right now and, I think, do successfully, so I don’t regret that at all.”
And now Haxton has a medal to show for the commitment and all the hard work. 
“The list is really long of people that I’m glad that I can say, ‘Hey, here’s something to show for all the support and all the work I’ve gotten over the years,’” said Haxton, “and that’s been really special. The thing I’m most proud of is the work that went into it.”

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.