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Canada’s Katarina Roxon racing towards 5th Paralympic Games after break from the pool | CBC Sports

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Katarina Roxon’s swimming journey started for safety reasons.

Now the Canadian Paralympic champion is racing toward what could be her fifth Games.

Roxon, of Kippens, N.L., was born with her left arm missing below her elbow, and got involved in swimming at age five because her parents thought that it was an essential skill to learn.

“They thought being on an island, it’s an important life skill to have,” Roxon told World Para Swimming.

Led by her father and coach, Leonard Roxon, her Paralympic dream set off.

Roxon was later advised it would be best to move to a bigger centre in Canada to train but opted to stay home and carve out her own path.

“I didn’t want to leave. I love Newfoundland. When Newfoundlanders support you, it’s like your family,” Roxon told World Para Swimming.

WATCH | Katarina Roxon motivated by support of her home province:

My Story: Katarina Roxon, a Paralympic champion, began her swimming pursuit due to safety concerns

Roxon’s parents believed that her sport was a critical life skill to have while living on an island. She has now become a two-time Paralympic medalist, and is preparing for a potential fifth Games.

At 15, Roxon was the youngest swimmer on the Beijing 2008 Canadian Paralympic team.

Eight years later at Rio 2016, Roxon claimed her first Paralympic medal — gold in the 100-metre breaststroke SB8 in Canadian record time.

“The response back home was nuts,” Roxon told World Para Swimming. “I was not expecting that at all. My phone was blowing up, so I didn’t even look at it because I still had a few more races to go.”

The celebrations continued with a victory parade when Roxon arrived back in Newfoundland and Labrador. “There was this huge crowd of people at the airport and I was just in awe.”

‘I didn’t want to end it off like that’

In response to her tremendous achievements and as part of the festivities, Highway Route 490, which leads the Trans-Canada Highway toward Roxon’s hometown, was renamed Katarina Roxon Way by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2018, Roxon was appointed to the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In 2021, Roxon participated in the virtual SwimForHope which raised over $50,000 for cancer and Newfoundland and Labrador Swimming Clubs.

Following difficult individual results at the Tokyo Games, Roxon took a break from the pool.

Katarina Roxon celebrates on the podium at Rio 2016.
Katarina Roxon celebrates on the podium at Rio 2016. The Kippens, N.L., native won gold in the 100-metre breaststroke SB8 in Canadian record time. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

“I’ve been doing this sport for 17 years.… I needed a reset to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. Whether it was leave the sport on that note, or come back to the sport or step into a new journey,” she said in an interview with CBC Newfoundland. “It helped me to digest everything, and it honestly helped me come back even stronger to the pool. I knew deep down in my heart that I didn’t want to end it off like that.

“I got myself back up and decided, ‘You know what, Katarina? You’re going to fight. You’re going to be better than what you showed in Tokyo.’ And I think that’s starting to prove right.”

At 30, Roxon has fully embraced her leadership role on Canada’s Para swim team.

“Everyone on the national team calls me Grandma, ’cause they’re all so much younger,” Roxon said with a laugh during an interview with CBC Newfoundland.

“I think the next youngest behind me is 26 … and I think the very youngest on the team is 17. It’s nice to be that role model and mentor for them knowing that I’ve had so many years of experience.”

Roxon is set to represent Canada at the 2023 World Para Swimming Championships, which takes place between July 31 and Aug. 6 in Manchester, England, and is the next step on the road to Paris 2024.

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