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June 22, 2023

Community Spotlight presented by Crosbie

Katarina Roxon: Canada Games to Paralympic Champion

From a small town in western Newfoundland to the top of the podium, Paralympic champion and Canada Games alum Katarina Roxon’s athletic career is coming full circle in the lead up to the St. John’s 2025 Canada Summer Games, as she begins her work on the Host Society’s Board of Directors.

“I’m so excited that it’s going to be here in the Province,” she said. “It’ll be such a different experience altogether, but it’ll be amazing to be on that side of it as well. I have no doubt in my mind that the Host Society and Canada Games Council is going to pull off an amazing Games.”

Twenty years before things get underway in St. John’s, the Regina 2005 Canada Summer Games put Roxon on the national stage for the first time at just 12 years old.

“I loved being part of that Team Newfoundland and Labrador,” Roxon said. “Up until that point, I was just a quiet little swimmer, doing my own thing in the pool. That was my breakout into becoming the athlete I am now.”

After taking home silver for her province in the 100m breaststroke in Regina, she was young enough that she could have returned to the Canada Games in 2009, but Roxon had her sights set even higher. With the support of her entire family, she joined Team Canada in the year after her podium performance in Regina and competed in her first Paralympic Games in 2008.


From her early days in the pool to now, with four Paralympic Games under her belt, Roxon has always been fueled by the direct support of her family. Her dad, Leonard, has been her coach since Roxon went to the Canada Games in 2005.

“It’s never about winning a medal with my dad,” she said. “If you win five gold medals, good for you, but if your technique was crappy, oh, he’s going to tell you, ‘You could have gone way faster if you fixed this.’ And it’s true!”

Even after winning her heat at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, her dad had notes for her when she called home.

“He’s like, ‘Keep your head down a little bit more on your stroke,’” Roxon said. “So it’s not so much about winning; it’s about doing something right and doing it to your absolute best.”

With his feedback in mind, Roxon shaved nearly two seconds off her time to win the women’s 100m breaststroke gold medal for Canada that night. She said her dad called that the best technical race of her career.

But the gold medal isn’t the only reason Rio is cemented in her mind. Unbeknownst to Roxon, her mom, Lisa, had received a uterine cancer diagnosis in the lead up to the Games, and the whole family decided to keep it a secret, to allow Roxon to keep her mind focused on training and competing at the Paralympics.

“To hear that was super, super hard,” Roxon said. “But ever since I found out about my mom, I’ve been a huge advocate for cancer research.”

One way Roxon brings awareness to the cause is through a fundraiser she’s been participating in for most of her life: the Swim for Hope, an annual swimathon put on jointly by the Cancer Care Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and Swimming NL.

“I definitely found it means so much more, because my mother was affected,” she said. “Obviously this one hits really close to home. Having those hard moments, whether that’s in regards to sports or your personal life, definitely affects how you move forward. So since then, I’ve been one of the top fundraisers.”

And her mom, who recovered well, hasn’t just been on the sidelines, either. Throughout Roxon’s career, there have been times when Leonard has been unavailable, so Lisa steps up. Both parents have completed all of their coaching certifications, training, and additional courses, which has paid off.

“For four years, any time I swam butterfly, I got disqualified,” Roxon said. “So my mom, when she started coaching and my dad was away, she worked on the butterfly with me. I’ve never been disqualified ever since for my butterfly because my mom fixed it, so anytime I swim butterfly, she’s like, 'Oh, that’s my stroke!'”

Roxon made sure her sister, Miranda, also got her share of credit. In addition to occasionally being the coach on deck when a meet didn’t fit in their parents’ schedule, Miranda also made a substantial sacrifice leading up to the 2012 Paralympic Games, after having moved to St. John’s for university the year before.

“Because I had no one to train with, she came home for a year and was my training partner,” Roxon said. “So she gave up a year of university, a year of her life, just so I would have a training partner.”

For all the love and support she has received from her family, Roxon said one of the hardest moments in her career came in front of extended family during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, in her parents’ home country of India.

An alternate rhythm from the starting official threw off Roxon, who was still a highschooler at the time.

“I was three seconds behind in my medal contention race,” she explained. “I had my entire family that live in India watching me, and it was like, ‘I just blew my race, and I disappointed everybody.’”

Despite knowing she still had her family’s support, Roxon used that moment to fuel her training and continue to improve.

“As soon as we went back home, we worked on different types of starts,” she said. “I had to make sure I listened carefully. And now I have one of the fastest and most keen starts.”

With tips from her dad, mom, and sister, Roxon will need to focus on every piece of coaching she has received in the next couple years. With the Manchester 2023 Para Swimming World Championships this summer and the Paris 2024 Paralympics inching closer, Roxon will be relying on nearly two decades of experience and every ounce of familial support she has accrued along the way.