Jack Eyers says Paralympic glory would top being crowned Mr England

British canoeist Jack Eyers is determined to make a splash on his Paralympic debut in Paris and could turn heads in more ways than one.

The chiselled 36-year-old is no stranger to the spotlight having launched a modelling career and been crowned Mr England since opting to have his right leg amputated aged just 16.

Eyers was devastated to agonisingly miss out on selection for Tokyo 2020 but his sporting career has since been on an upward trend.

He travels to France as a two-time world and reigning European champion in the VL3 event and with further ambitions of catching the eye.

“Being world champion tops Mr England but Paralympic champion – that’s a dream come true,” Eyers told the PA news agency having on Monday been named in ParalympicsGB’s nine-strong canoeing squad for Paris.

“It gives me nerves just thinking about it but I’m very excited.

“I enjoy being in the limelight as an athlete because that is very pure success – it’s not based on someone’s opinion, it’s based on how hard I’ve worked and how much I’ve committed and how much I’ve sacrificed.

“I’ve dreams of being at the top of the podium, absolutely. I’ve got full capability of doing that.”

Jack Eyers has been a big hit on the catwalk
Jack Eyers has been a big hit on the catwalk (Aaron Chown/PA)

Eyers, from Bournemouth, was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency, which affected his hip, knee and femur.

He was advised to wait until he was 18 and had stopped growing to undergo surgery but convinced doctors to amputate his leg above the knee two years early.

Since the operation, Eyers has been “ripped apart by werewolves” and “blown up” in horror films after joining a film-set agency specifically for amputees, while he performed an acrobatic role in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.

He later joined a modelling agency – Models of Diversity – which paved the way to becoming a cover star for Men’s Health magazine and appearances at London and New York fashion weeks, in addition to beauty pageant glory.

“It was pretty awesome,” he said of being the first amputee to win the Mr England title, in 2017.

“Little milestones like that are a tick in a box – you’ve been accepted.

“As somebody who was reasonably embarrassed by their leg when they were younger and felt very different in a world when you wanted to fit in, I had now, 15 years later, understood that it was really cool to stand out.

“By stepping up on stage and doing the catwalks and all the stuff the Mr England role required it was like this acceptance into society.”

Eyers tried wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, rowing and swimming before picking up a paddle.

He shrugged off the disappointment of being overlooked for the rescheduled Japan Paralympics to cap his journey from catwalk to canoe by clinching the 2021 world title in Copenhagen and then retaining it the following year in Dartmouth on the back of European glory in Munich.

“I’ve always set it as my goal to be the next young person’s role model and show them what’s possible,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be sport, it could be fashion. It doesn’t have to be fashion, it could be just general fitness or just living life to the max and almost using your disadvantage as an advantage.

“There’s lots of ways of doing that.”