YOU might expect paddling prodigy Benji Cabrera to have been inspired by Olympic medalists like Joe Clarke or Mallory Franklin, writes Jonny Bray.
But after being selected under SportsAid’s Aldi-backed Next Generation scheme, the 18-year-old canoeing star insists his sporting hero is, in fact, the strongest man winner of the world, Eddie Hall.
SportsAid supports over 1,000 young athletes each year by offering a financial reward to help cover training and competition costs while providing personal development opportunities for many athletes through workshop sessions.
Aldi is now working in partnership with SportsAid to support 20 young athletes on their journey to becoming future Olympians and Paralympians – including Cabrera – and help them eat like a champion.
Highlights of the Truro and Penwith College student’s career include his first place finish at the British Open National Championships in the Under-18 K4 5k.
But Cabrera admits that one of the driving forces behind his success has been the inspiration he draws from the famous strongman-turned-boxer’s career.
“I would say Eddie Hall has really been a driving force for me, he’s so determined and I find that really inspiring,” Cabrera said, speaking after filming a new TV ad campaign for Aldi, who works with Team GB and ParalympicsGB. on the Get Set to Eat Fresh program, which helps school children eat healthier and live active lives.
“I first saw him two years ago when I started seeing clips of his deadlift on YouTube, and I’ve seen how he’s been pushing his own limits so far.
“I’ve never seen anyone push themselves this far and I wanted to try to do the same.
“I love fitness and wellness because it keeps you fit and makes sure your head is in the right place.”
Each year, athletes are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies of over 60 sports on the basis of defined criteria.
Aldi-backed athletes will receive a £2,000 reward via SportsAid. Aldi will also support its 20 athletes with a £25 monthly voucher, to fuel them through training, competition and future Olympic and Paralympic Games.
After moving to Fowey River Canoe Club, Cabrera finished ninth in the under-18 category at the World Marathon Championships.
And he believes he was born in the perfect place to canoe like a duck to water.
He said: “I live in Cornwall and water sports are big in Cornwall so I’ve always loved being in the water and the sea.
“So I just thought I’d give it a try, and I met some of the coaches from what is now my club and got started – and loved it straight away.
“There’s certainly a wide range of sports available in Truro, and you’re surrounded by lots of people who know how to do watersports and are great athletes as well.
“It was the first water sport I tried, and I just enjoyed it.
“I love how it keeps you in shape and how unique it is. There are a lot of different aspects and a lot of skills involved as well, it takes a lot of practice but when you do it right it’s amazing. is truly satisfying.”
Aldi is the official supermarket partner of Team GB and ParalympicsGB and has partnered with Team GB since 2015, ParalympicsGB since 2022 and will support them until Paris 2024.