Home News Rowing World Championships: Callum Dixon Overcomes Intense Dyslexia to Row for Glory

Rowing World Championships: Callum Dixon Overcomes Intense Dyslexia to Row for Glory

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Callum Dixon made his first splash in international rowing waters in 2022.
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Event Dates: September 3-10
Where to Watch: Live coverage of the finals will be available on Saturday (12:00-14:35 BST) and Sunday (12:00-14:10 BST) via BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Sport News Center’s website and app. Additionally, tune into Sunday highlights on BBC Two from 16:00-17:00 BST.

In sports, they say the playing field is the great equalizer—your oasis from the grind of daily life, where individual differences are forgotten as everyone chases a common objective.

This is definitely true for Callum Dixon, who finds empowerment through athletics. He puts it simply: “In sports, no one will expect me to do something I don’t think I’m capable of doing.”

In everyday life, Dixon struggles with severe dyslexia, which severely limits his reading ability to roughly 25 words. This means he can’t read a book, a restaurant menu, or even differentiate between bathroom doors labeled ‘men’ and ‘women.’

But what Dixon lacks in reading skills, he more than makes up for with his rowing prowess. And he’s got Olympic aspirations.

Dixon, currently 23 years old, first realized his limitations around the age of eight, when everyday tasks came easy for his peers but not for him.

“I couldn’t make sense of the alphabet, and even pronouncing the letter names was like scaling a mountain,” Dixon recalls in an interview with Sport News Center. “By the time I was 12 or 14, I was still wondering why it hadn’t clicked for me.”

Born and raised in the Mile End area of East London, Dixon and his three siblings were homeschooled. He filled his afternoons and evenings participating in every extracurricular activity he could find, from sports teams to Scout troops.

He did go to school briefly and remembers struggling just to read the questions on the classroom board.

“I knew the hard part should be answering the questions, not just reading them,” he notes. “Even navigating the Tube was a challenge. I’d memorize every stop to know where I was and where I needed to go.”

Nowadays, Dixon still leans heavily on the support of his family, especially his parents, who assist him with tasks like bill payments and paperwork. His mother played a monumental role in helping him secure a psychology degree from the Open University.

“My mom read everything and helped write all my responses,” Dixon reveals. “She was my eyes and hands throughout my academic journey.”

Despite his athletic triumphs, Dixon is realistic about the hurdles he’ll face in a “regular” job post-sports career. “It feels like a mountain I can’t climb,” he admits.

But for the time being, he’s consumed by what he calls “the best job in the world”: rowing. In July, Dixon and his crew snagged a silver medal at the World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Dixon initially took to the seas as a sailor, climbing through the ranks to join the British team in 2016. However, after World Sailing announced the removal of his Finn class from the 2024 Olympics, he had to pivot. Cue his switch to rowing, a suggestion from Scott whose brother Nick was head of performance at British Rowing.

Fast-forward to 2022, and Dixon was making his rowing debut on the world stage.

Dixon’s tall frame suits rowing, but it’s also a sport that accommodates him. “It’s all about numbers, not words,” he says.

Earlier this year, Dixon and his team members—George Bourne, Matt Haywood, and Tom Barras—missed a podium finish, landing fourth at the European Championships. They’ll be rowing again this week at the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

What’s more, there’s a special cherry on top. Seven Olympic slots are up for grabs, and Dixon is raring to go.

“The stakes are higher this time, with Olympic qualifications on the line. It’s both nerve-wracking and electrifying,” Dixon declares.

“The end goal is the Paris Olympics, but this is a crucial stepping stone toward that dream. I’ve been yearning to go to the Olympics for as long as I can remember,” he adds. “If it comes to fruition, I can’t even begin to describe how incredible that would feel. But for now, let’s just say I’m stoked.”

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