Kayaking teen defies the odds to win national titles with Langley teammate

Tim Dowden and James How from Langley School have won the sprint and marathon categories in the Nati

Tim Dowden and James How from Langley School have won the sprint and marathon categories in the National Schools Flat Water Kayak Championships. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A teenager who was left with a brain injury following a life-threatening crash has overcome the odds to become a kayaking champion.

Tim Dowden (left) and James How (right) in action in the Schools Marathon Championships. They also w

Tim Dowden (left) and James How (right) in action in the Schools Marathon Championships. They also won the Sprint trophy. Photos: Chris Dowden. - Credit: Submitted

James How from Earsham, is a member of the Langley School Kayaking Academy and together with his paddling partner Tim Dowden has won two national titles.

It's a far cry from the events of six years ago which left him with a 5pc chance of survival after the car he was in was hit by a train at an unmanned level crossing in Barnby.

James, now 16, was thrown out of the window during the collision onto the track and suffered serious head injuries which left him with double vision and difficulties reading and processing.

Undeterred, the determined teenager decided to try out kayaking four years ago and has put his all into honing the skill, with the help of his family, the school academy and his coach Tim Scott.

The boys are part of the Langley School Kayaking Academy. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

The boys are part of the Langley School Kayaking Academy. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

James and Tim, 15, who is from Leamington Spa, won both the sprint and 20km marathon categories in the 2016 National Schools Flat Water Kayak Championships on the River Thames at Wokingham on Sunday, beating crews from all over the country.

'It took a little while to sink in,' said James. 'It wasn't until we came back to the bank and everyone was cheering that it hit us we had won.

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'It was really tough, especially the marathon race, and it was a really cold day as well, but we love doing it and it was great to win.'

The pair have also represented Great Britain at marathon events abroad and are both members of the Super Regional Squad for sprint athletes, which is one step away from the English National Squad.

Petra How, James' mum, said she and her husband Matt were extremely proud.

'James has double vision and has to wear prism lensed glasses but he can't wear them when he's kayaking so that's a real challenge,' she said.

'He has faced so many challenges but Langley have been brilliant and have given him incredible learning support. They have gone out and found out about brain injuries and how they can help his needs.

'We were told by the surgeon, definitely no rugby, football or cricket, but he wanted to have a go at kayaking and someone said that he was quite good, it's a brilliant thing for him to do.

'We were told he had a 5pc chance of survival and to prepare ourselves, but he's a star, he's a real fighter.'

The duo train six days a week with Norwich Canoe Club, which is in partnership with the school. And one day they hope to represent Team GB in the Olympics.

Tim said: 'We do it for the enjoyment but it's really nice to win. Lots of people have congratulated us.'

Mr Scott, who is a British canoeing level three racing coach, oversees the training of all the Langley School Kayaking Academy athletes.

He said: 'It was exciting for them to have this reward and it's very well deserved as they both approach training in a thoughtful, professional way and always with intensity.

'I don't think people always appreciate the challenges James faces every time he gets in a kayak as a result of his accident - he just gets on with it. Most people would not be able to paddle a kayak at all with the range and quality of vision he has let alone race and be successful.'

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