Callum Dixon finds solace in sport amid ongoing dyslexia struggle
Sport proved a safe haven for Callum Dixon as a child amid struggles with dyslexia
By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat
Olympic hopeful Callum Dixon is yet to find the dyslexic advantage.
The rower, expected to make the Team GB squad for Paris 2024, is one of six million dyslexic people in the UK.
Capable of reading 25 words, you won’t find Dixon celebrating his hidden superpower.
“I don’t think I’ve ever managed to see it as a positive,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s not a really great thing, I would rather be able to read.”
Dixon, born and raised in Tower Hamlets, first realised there was something different about him aged eight.
He remembers lasting three days in mainstream education before his family decided on homeschooling.
“Even the alphabet, they’d write it down and it never came,” he said. “Nothing quite feels like it works.
“You see all your friends reading books and reading menus. It’s very frustrating at that point.”
Dixon has no GCSE or A-Level qualifications but counts a degree in psychology from the Open University as one of his proudest achievements.
The struggle is real and it comes in the smallest things that the rest of the world takes for granted.
Dixon’s heart sinks when he sees a toilet door labelled with the words ‘male’ and ‘female’, rather than a symbol. He might have to ask for help and ignore the weird looks.
From the start, sport made sense.
It gave him an invaluable and natural outlet - tennis, climbing, swimming, but chiefly sailing, instantly smitten with life on the ocean wave.
He said: “We went to a tiny dock in Canary Wharf and they let us jump in all summer. It was the most fun I ever had, I loved it so much”
“Sport has made my life so much simpler,” he continued. “No-one will ask me to read anything at any point.
“Working a nine-to-five job would be a struggle for me. I express myself with my body rather than words and that’s the best thing about being a full-time athlete.”
Congratulations to our #GBRowingTeam juniors for a great weekend of racing at the European U19 Championships! 🇬🇧
Full race report 👇https://t.co/b2Qb77MzJV pic.twitter.com/rfNpIJPAZY
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) May 22, 2023
Dixon joined the British Sailing Team in 2016 and was poised for stardom in the finn class for heavyweight males.
The finn, made famous by Sir Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott, was dropped from the Olympic programme after Tokyo 2020 in part due to the need for parity between men’s and women’s medal events.
Dixon went back to the drawing board to keep his Olympic dream alive but didn’t have to look far. Nick Scott, Giles’s brother, worked at British Rowing and recommended that he gave it a try.
Completing his transformation from a sailor to a sculler, he made his debut on the World Cup circuit last year and will be part of the British squad aiming to qualify for Paris this year at the World Championships.
“I occasionally wonder whether there will be more challenges in the future when I have to get a real job!” said Dixon. “But for now, yeah, the Olympic dream is real.
“We all go through tough stuff in life and if you’ve got good mates, they’ll help you out.
“When you’re in Secret Santa and one of your mates gets you a book, it is very funny.
“Then the same guys, we were going to watch All Quiet on the Western Front together, and one of them said: ‘we can’t actually watch this because there are so many subtitles.’
“I’d have probably sat through the whole film and not understood a thing. He was thinking about me."
British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the team, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/