Ben Clayton-Harris out to change the world and reach the Olympics in canoeing

Chancellor's School student Ben Clayton-Harris is starting to take the canoeing world by storm.

Chancellor's School student Ben Clayton-Harris is starting to take the canoeing world by storm. - Credit: Archant

A student from Chancellor’s School is hoping to break the mould in the world of canoeing and propel himself towards Olympic glory.

Brookmans Park’s Ben Clayton-Harris is already making waves on the national canoeing scene but he has had to battle through many obstacles to get to where he is, including the preconceived ideas of what a canoeing star should look like.

The 17-year-old first picked up a paddle following a visit from British Canoeing to his school and having initially been turned away after a slalom test day at the Lee Valley White Water Centre for being too big, decided to try his hand at sprinting.

He went on to successfully break into the GB setup at the second time of asking but questions about his suitability to his chosen discipline continued.

With dreams of emulating the likes of Olympic champions Ed McKeever and Liam Heath, Clayton-Harris is determined to prove he can be similarly successful over the shorter format.

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“I like racing over 200m,” he said at a SportsAid workshop prior to the lockdown. “Traditionally 200m paddlers are smaller and 1000m paddlers taller but I want to change that and be a tall 200m paddler.

“I just want to go fast in a straight line, that’s all I want to do. I love the thrill of paddling with so much power in the water and propelling myself forward and being the best that I can be.

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“People like Liam are so inspirational to me. He’s the same kind of paddler as me and I’m so intrigued to know how he does his stuff.”

While Clayton-Harris insists he is focused on working his way up to the senior GB squad, he admits he has had to overcome tougher times when he wasn’t sure if he’d ever reach his potential.

But now, and in spite of an ever-increasing school workload, he believes he has discovered a perfect balance to ensure he is successful in each of his walks of life.

He said: “I had a very frustrating 2018 – everything seemed to be going wrong with training and results out on the water.

“But over winter this year I became hugely motivated and passionate. I’m making sure I’m working as hard as I can. I’m a bit older now, and I think I have a clearer view on things.

“I’m studying for my A Levels alongside kayaking which can be stressful but I make the most of my time by doing work in free periods and after training in the evening.

“I have a lot of support, particularly from my mum, and everything seems to be working well at the moment so I’m excited to see how far I can go.”

SportsAid supports the most promising young British athletes by providing them with a financial award, recognition and personal development opportunities during the critical early stages of their careers. The athlete and parent workshop hosted at Newmarket Racecourse was supported by funds raised by the RBC Ride for the Kids.

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