Blake Haxton: Selected USRowing Male Athlete of the Year

Training to race the arms and shoulders single at the 2016 Paralympic Games did not involve a lot of interaction with the rest of the U.S. senior national team for Blake Haxton.

Almost all of Haxton’s preparations were done near his home in Columbus, Ohio, and all while he was busy building his future. In between training for and winning Paralympic trials this spring and preparing to race in Rio, Haxton was finishing up and graduating from law school and starting a career in finance.

It’s the kind of situation and schedule that limits contact with the rest of the U.S. team, except for a few weeks during the summers of 2014 and 2015, and then to a few crews at 2016 trials and a media summit weekend in LA, where he spent time with Seth Weil.

“So in my head I’m kind of – and this comes from the nature of not being in the training center and rowing a single – I’m out here on my own island,” Haxton said. “I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to be in a more team-orientated setting, but the demands of life, work and school and everything take precedence.”

So when voting for the USRowing 2016 Male and Female Athletes of the Year was finished, and Dr. Gevvie Stone was announced the winner from the women’s team and Haxton was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year, he was “speechless.”

The two athletes of the year are chosen among the athletes and coaches of the full senior national teams, which in the case of this year, included both the Olympic and Paralympic crews. Haxton is the first male adaptive athlete to be honored as a USRowing Athlete of the Year.

Haxton and Stone will be recognized at the 2016 Golden Oars Dinner on Nov. 17, at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.

This is the biggest honor I have ever gotten athletically, or in anything for that matter, when I think of it. This is as big as it has ever been for me. I have nothing to compare this too.”

“I don’t have anything to compare this too,” Haxton said. “I try and analogize everything and try to put things into context in order to know what to feel or think about something, and I am struggling here because I don’t have a context. I don’t have an analogy for this.

“I never thought that, given a list of every athlete on the Olympic and Paralympic team, that they would vote for me,” he said. “It’s just kind of unbelievable that the guys would see this list of athletes and that I would come to mind.

“This is the biggest honor I have ever gotten athletically, or in anything for that matter, when I think of it. This is as big as it has ever been for me. I have nothing to compare this too.”

Just three years into his career as a Paralympic single sculler, Haxton has made the finals in every international event he has competed in. He finished fourth at his first world championships in 2014, finished fifth and qualified his boat class for the Paralympic Games at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and then finished fourth in Rio.

Haxton, who was a senior in high school when he suffered the loss of both legs when he was infected with necrotizing fasciitis, or the “flesh-eating disease,” began rowing the arms and shoulders single after he was lured back to rowing by the coaches and his friends at Upper Arlington Crew, where he had rowed scholastically.

He had been out of rowing from the time he was stricken, but entered The Ohio Sate University as an undergraduate on time. After getting back into rowing, he won his national team trials event in 2014 and began international competition.

Haxton said he believed he would never participate in rowing again following his illness, but still loved the sport and had always been a fan of Gevvie Stone. “I remember watching her race in London in 2012,” he said. “At that time, I hadn’t even considered getting a fixed seat for an erg, let alone racing. I thought I was done rowing. But I always followed Gevvie. Now, to be sharing the podium with her at Golden Oars, I really am speechless.”

1 of 4 Blake Haxton after winning trials
2 of 4 Racing in Paralympic Heats
3 of 4 At the Rio finish line in finals
4 of 4 Haxton recognizing supports in the stands in Rio
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