Province's paralympian eyes gold in Beijing

Kenn Oliver
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PARALYMPIC GAMES

While the rest of the world marvelled at Michael Phelps' Spitzian Olympic effort, Kippens' Katarina Roxon tuned in to the Beijing swimming events with an eye to facilities and pool, not just the school of record-setting swimmers themselves.

Come Sept. 7, the 15-year-old swimmer who is part of the Canadian Paralympic swim team will be plunging in to the very same water in the first of her four - perhaps six if she joins the relay teams - Beijing Paralympic swims.

Katarina Roxon

While the rest of the world marvelled at Michael Phelps' Spitzian Olympic effort, Kippens' Katarina Roxon tuned in to the Beijing swimming events with an eye to facilities and pool, not just the school of record-setting swimmers themselves.

Come Sept. 7, the 15-year-old swimmer who is part of the Canadian Paralympic swim team will be plunging in to the very same water in the first of her four - perhaps six if she joins the relay teams - Beijing Paralympic swims.

"I'm just a little nervous," admits the teen, who was born missing the lower part of her left arm. "But I think in the end it'll all work out for me, I'm sure I can overcome my nerves.

"Other than that I'm really excited. Everyone says your first Paralympics is going to be your best time, the most memorable."

Injury

After Katarina had qualified for the team at the 2008 CN Swimming Trials in Montreal, she injured her right knee's medial collateral ligament at an international meet in Germany.

"Of course, for her breaststroke, which is her top event," father and coach Leonard Roxon says, "that is one of the most important ligaments for stability."

When she returned, Leonard and wife Lisa, both physiotherapists modified her training schedule for a short time before another meet in British Columbia. Following that event, Katarina attended a Canadian team training camp and re-injured the same knee.

"After she came back from that, we had to modify her training to be a combination of injury recovery, strengthening and building up her endurance," he explains. "It was a bit complicated."

The modified training forced Katarina to slack on her breaststroke preparation.

"It's like being caught between a rock and a hard place. If you don't train, you're not going to perform, but if you do train you're going to risk injury again," says Leonard.

But the steely minded Katarina, who earned her spot in Montreal despite battling severe flu symptoms, prevailed and Leonard says she's stronger and faster than before.

"After CN trials, she was ranked 15th in the world. With her training that my wife is doing during the weekdays and when I go home on the weekends, I think three days ago my wife told me that she had timing which would put her on par with about eighth in the world. That's a significant improvement in the last couple of months."

And as a result of focusing more on her butterfly and freestyle methods, Katarina's improved her chances in her medley event.

While Leonard has taken up full-time coaching duties at home, in Beijing she'll swim under the tutelage of Jeff Toth, coach of the Swim Saskatchewan High Performance Team and regular season coach of Katarina's fellow Paralympian Jacqueline Rennebohm of Regina, who she roomed with in B.C.

Golden thoughts

While Katarina may not be the most experienced swimmer on the Canadian team, and the National Coach for Swimmers with a Disability doesn't expect the holder of six senior national records to be a podium candidate, Leonard believes she can bring home some hardware.

"If she continues to progress the way she's been progressing, there's a good chance she will."

Katarina's own goals in China are clear: "I want best times in all my swims and I want to get a gold medal."

Oh, and after reading William Bell's "Forbidden City" in Grade 9 English this year, she is desperate to get a look.

Katarina and the other 20 members of the team left B.C. for a two-week stint in Osaka, Japan, where the team will train before leaving for Beijing Thursday. The Roxon clan - mom, dad, and big sister Miranda - will join her in China.

Her first swim, the 100-m butterfly, takes place Sept. 7.

koliver@thetelegram.com




THE ROXON FILES

Katarina Roxon's events at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing:
Sept. 7
100 metre butterfly
Sept. 9
100 breaststroke
Sept. 11
200 individual medley; 4x50 freestyle relay*
Sept. 14
50 freestyle
Sept. 15
4x50 medley relay*
* - not guaranteed events
Roxon's Records
April, 2008
CN Swimming Trials, Montreal - 2nd, 100 m breaststroke (1:33.96)
March, 2008
Swimming Newfoundland and Labrador short-course provincial championships, Corner Brook - 1st, 200 m breaststroke (3:18.84) * senior national record
August, 2007
Para Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 1st, 4x100 medley relay (5:22.66); 2nd, 100 m breaststroke (1:29.97); 2nd, 200 m individual medley (2:54.66), 3rd, 50 m freestyle (33.02)
July, 2007
Can-Am International Swimming Competition, Vancouver, B.C. - 1st, 50 m breaststroke (43.62)*; 1st, 1500 m freestyle 9 (23:03.47); 2nd, 200 m freestyle (2:35.47); 2nd, 200 m breaststroke (2:35.47)
May 2007
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) meet, Belgium - 2nd, 400 m freestyle (5:49.01); 2nd, 200 m individual medley (3:03.99); 2nd, 100 m breaststroke (1:40.33); 3rd, 100 m backstroke (1:37.79); 3rd, 100 m butterfly
March 2007
Corner Brook Short Course Swimming Championships - 1st, 1500 m freestyle (22:38:27)*
December 2006
World Championships for Swimmers with a Disability, Durban, South Africa -5th, 100 m breastwork (33.6)*
December 2005
U.S.A. Paralympic open championships, Minneapolis, Minn., - 3rd, 50 m backstroke (42.85); 3rd, 100 m breaststroke (1:40.39); 4th, 200 m butterfly (3:22.63)*; 2nd, 50 m breaststroke (45.17)*, 2nd, 200 m breaststroke (3:35.94)*
August 2005
2005 Canada Summer Games, Regina, Manitoba - 2nd, 100 m breaststroke (1:40.72)
* - Denotes senior national record

Organizations: Canadian Paralympic, Roxon, Am International Paralympic Committee IPC

Geographic location: Beijing, Montreal, Vancouver, B.C. Germany British Columbia China Osaka Japan Newfoundland and Labrador Corner Brook Rio de Janeiro Brazil Belgium Durban South Africa Minneapolis, Minn. Canada Manitoba

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