12:55pm Thursday 17th July 2014
A MONMOUTHSHIRE school boy has been crowned under 15 European champion in canicross with the help of his dog Henry.
Rowan Saxton, 11, who attends The Grange Monmouth Preparatory School, has been crowned champion in the sport which involves cross country running with a dog attached to a waist belt on a two-metre bungee line.
Rowan, who races with his pet rescued kelpie cross, Henry, said: “I call him the fastest dog in the world – he’s like a cheetah. He does fly. Every picture someone takes of us racing, I’m hovering.
“It’s frightening and I get nervous but it feels good because you’re flying through the air.”
Champion for his age group for the last two years running, Rowan competes in the Trophée des Montagnes (TDM) canicross race in the French Alps.
It is an 11-stage mountain running event which takes place over nine days, and is taken very seriously by racers and spectators alike.
Competitors come from all over the world, including France, Spain, Ukraine and the USA.
He runs 5km in 18 minutes with Henry, and hopes to keep his champ title at the next TDM in August, which will also see his sister, Scarlett, 10, compete.
The schoolboy said: “My favourite part is racing uphill because everyone else struggles but I don’t because of Henry - he hates being overtaken.
“You have to focus on where you’re putting your feet because if you slip on gravel that’s the end.”
The pair’s latest victory was in the three-country AAA events, which saw them win first prizes in Belgium, Holland and France between March and June.
Rowan, who lives in Lydney, was the fastest overall competitor bar one, 28-year-old Israeli woman and her specially bred greyster racing dog, out of more than 100 racers over the weekend in Belgium.
He is currently number one for under 15s in Europe and his ambition is to keep the title going.
He added: “My mum estimated we do 2km in just over six minutes and one mile in four minutes and 20 seconds.”
Rowan's mum Claire took up the sport about five years ago and his stepfather, Lloyd, was one of the first people in the UK to start with the sport six years ago.
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