After studying for his master’s, Benjamin worked in London as an account executive in the marine division of insurance firm RKH Specialty. It was while he was there that his path took a very different turn.
“In 2016, I suffered a life-changing injury while competing in a cycling race, which left me paralysed from the ribcage down – and that’s where my journey to a career with British Rowing began,” says Ben.
He undertook rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital; the birthplace of the Paralympic Games: “It was here that I was found by British Rowing and, as they say, the rest is history.”
Since then, Ben has decided to put his career in insurance on hold to give himself the best opportunity to reach his goal of competing at the Paralympic Games.
Throughout all of this, his experience at Southampton has stayed with him – not least because he was a recipient of the James Atherton Scholarship for sports, and was involved in triathlon, riding, and cycling student societies. In fact, it prepared him for being ready for unplanned – but exciting – opportunities.
“I enjoyed my time at Southampton. I think the one thing that stood out for me was how diverse my course was. Studying within such an international peer group brings so many different perspectives to the lectures, and I feel that this added a real strength to my education.” he says.
“I would advise anyone with a clear career path or ambitions to stay open to opportunities outside of this path – you might not know where it could take you!”
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that life can change in an instant. Post-injury, I try to live in the present and enjoy any opportunity that presents itself. Never shut that door because you don’t know the path it may take you down.
Ben hopes that his new vocation will propel him to the top of the podium at future Paralympic Games: a goal he set himself at the start of his rowing career.
And he’s been making the most of lockdowns to prepare himself for Tokyo – training at home with his partner, and taking part in online races against international competitors.
“I felt that there was a massive danger to sit on your hands during lockdown – especially since I’ve come away from the centralised location and moved back to Wales. But it’s showed me that the training I have been doing during lockdown has worked – I haven’t gone backwards, and actually I’ve made a step forward – so my splits are faster now than what I was pulling before.”
Ben’s regime has continued through the winter, and things are looking positive for the competitive season ahead. This April, he has the Europeans, which will mark the first time back on a start line since the World Championships in 2019.
“I am Ben Pritchard, and I am Able.”
For more on sporting alumni, keep an eye out for our upcoming lecture showcasing some of Southampton’s names in the field. In the meantime, check out our news page to read about alumnus Charlie Dalin’s recent success in the Vendée Globe.