Benjamin Pritchard is in Tokyo as a member of the Great Britain Paralympic Rowing Team.
He competes in the PR1 men’s single scull at the Paralympics on 27, 28 and 29 August.
As a student, Ben received one of Bangor University’s main sports prizes, the Llew Rees Memorial Prize, awarded to an outstanding athlete. In his third year, he represented British Triathlon at the European and World Age Group Championships.
He now says that one of his goals is to provide a bursary to a sporty athlete at Bangor University!
While at University, Ben was a very active in the Athletic Union, picking up full colours for Hockey and Cycling and Blues for Triathlon. He also sampled Gaelic Football and had a great time!
In 2016 however, he sustained a spinal injury as a result of a cycling accident.
Ben, who is from Mumbles, Swansea, says of the experience: “I was fortunate enough to attend Stoke Mandeville the national spinal injuries centre and birthplace of the Paralympic movement. At the hospital they place a huge emphasis on the benefits sport can play post injury and I was very fortunate to try a variety of sports in my tenure there.
“Initially I disliked the rowing machine as I found it too difficult and a little on the boring side, however, a friend and fellow patient mentioned to me that there was a leaderboard being kept by the Physios and that was it. I was hooked on trying to go faster and faster – the natural progression was to reach out to British Rowing and see what the next steps were.”
In 2019, Ben decided to focus on the Paralympics, becoming a full-time athlete. He competes in the PR1 men’s single scull. He made his international rowing debut in that year, when he was placed 3rd at a World Cup and 4th at the World Championships. He has now reached his goal of attending the Paralympics, and his aim now is to achieve a podium result!
He says: “I cannot put into words how happy I am to be out here in Tokyo right now! I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. Sharing the dinner hall with athletes I have watched on TV and admired is such a surreal experience and now I get to call them teammates. It is an incredible experience and I am relishing every opportunity.”
“Every athlete comes to the Paralympics to win. We wouldn’t be athletes without that competitive mindset. A realistic goal for me is a podium finish – 5th place and that is what I am going out there to achieve! I think the biggest thing as a debutant is to make sure you saviour and enjoy every moment, because you never know if this will be your first and last games or if you’ll make it back. So I am making sure that I take a moment each day to ensure I am enjoying myself.”
Ben attended a Bangor University Open Day and says: “I am an incredibly proud Welshman so it was important to me to stay within Wales and continue higher education. I attended an open day at the School of Law and sat in the lecture room and looked out of the window and saw the picturesque views and Snowdonia frosted in snow and said to my parents right there and then, that this was where I wanted to go.
As a keen sportsman I knew that I could get the right study/life balance as Bangor University had a high standard of education and Snowdonia National Park was within a stone’s throw and could provide endless hours of adventures.”
He says: “I am grateful for that open day making me choose Bangor. Studying at Bangor were some of the best years of my life and if I could do it all over again, I would be right there!”
Ben had this to say about future plans: “The short-term focus is Tokyo and then some well-earned rest and relaxation. I am sure my fiancé will get me heavily involved in our postponed wedding and I look forward to spending some time with friends and family.
“Covid has meant that a lot of the normal friends and family time has had to be compromised for my end goal of competing here at Tokyo. My long-term goal is to provide a bursary to a sporty athlete at the University as I was very lucky to receive the Llew Rees Memorial Prize and would love to help a young sportsperson the opportunity to develop their craft just like I had the chance to do at the University.”
(Lead image: British Rowing)
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