Whitehorse’s Stephanie Dixon has been busy entering Halls of Fame lately.
Three weeks ago the para swimmer was inducted into the University of Victoria Sports Hall of Fame. A week later came the Swimming Canada Hall of Fame.
Now the biggest yet…
Dixon, a 19-time Paralympic medalist and world record holder, will be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, it was announced Monday in Toronto.
“The phone call was extremely exciting. I was surprised because I think Hall of Fame is something that happens later in your life and I feel I’m a little bit the baby of the crew being inducted this year,” said Dixon. “It’s a huge honour. It’s very humbling to be among such an incredibly inspiring group of people.”
Dixon, who was born with one leg, began swimming lessons at age two, started competing at age 12, and went on to become one of the most decorated Paralympians of all time, collecting a total of 19 medals, including seven gold, over three Paralympic Summer Games.
The 32-year-old, originally from Brampton, Ontario, represented Canada at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece, and the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.
At her first Paralympics in Sydney she claimed five gold medals in five world record times, also setting a record for most golds won by a Canadian in a Games.
“I swam before for the love of it – every day it was just me doing my thing in the water – and then I went to Sydney on the world stage for my first Paralympic Games at 16 and suddenly it dawned on me how big of a deal all of it was and how powerful sport is at bringing together so many people from all over the world just to be the best that they can be,” said Dixon. “Sydney was a real big game-changer for me.”
Dixon has also won medals at three IPC Swimming World Championships and one Commonwealth Games in the para-sport category.
Though she retired from competition in 2010, some of her world para records still stand today. She holds the short course and long course 200-metre backstroke records and the short course 100-metre backstroke record.
While getting a degree in psychology from the University of Victoria, Dixon competed at two university swim nationals and in 2005 placed 16th against able-bodied swimmers. That’s one of her career highlights, she said.
“(While) swimming for the University of Victoria varsity team I made it to the CIS championships – the national university championships – and I was the only one with a disability at the competition, but I qualified at the same standards as everybody else,” said Dixon. “That was a big moment: I got to represent my university at the national level with all of my peers, my teammates.”
Following her competitive career, Dixon spent two years as head coach for the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club ending after the 2012/13 season. She also worked as head coach of Yukon swim teams, including at the Canada Summer Games.
Dixon, who was also inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2013, was team ambassador for the Canadian Paralympic Committee for the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.
“I’m still very involved with the Paralympic movement. I was the assistant chef de mission for the Parapan Am Games this past summer in Toronto,” said Dixon. “I’ve been invited to co-host the Paralympic Games on CBC with Scott Russell for Rio, so that’s really exciting.
“I mentor athletes from across the country in a program called CIBC Team Next … And in the Yukon I’m a fitness coach, so I’m still involved in keeping Whitehorse healthy and active, and coaching masters swimming as well.”
Dixon will be one of seven to join the “Class of 2016” in the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 1.
Joining her is four-time Grey Cup Champion Michael “Pinball” Clemons; Special Olympics creator Dr. Frank Hayden; four-time Olympian – and the first woman to represent Canada at both the Summer and Winter Olympics – Sue Holloway; two-time world curling champion Colleen Jones; two-time Olympic speedskating gold medalist Annie Perreault; and seven-time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Trottier.
“Today on the stage (during the announcement) I was sitting between Pinball Clemons and Frank Hayden,” said Dixon. “Frank Hayden invented Special Olympics, so I was just in awe sitting between these two super stars.”
“I’m so inspired. I feel like I have so much left to accomplish in the Paralympic movement and the sporting community of Canada, so it’s honouring and humbling all at the same time,” she added.
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