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Amputee Swimmer

Stephanie Dixon - Athlete Profile

Swimming has always been my passion. From the moment I was introduced to it at the age of two, I loved being in the water and that love has never faded. Having been born missing my right leg and hip, overcoming obstacles and challenges has always been part of my life, but being challenged changed at some point from a way of life to a passion. I absolutely loved it when someone doubted me based on my disability because I then had the opportunity to prove myself. Having a love for the water and for challenges, joining competitive swimming seemed to be the perfect thing for me to do. I took swimming lessons until I was 13. I realized that I wanted to challenge my swimming abilities further so I joined the local competitive swim club.
Before swimming I had been involved in many other sports such as baseball, gymnastics, diving, skiing and horseback riding. My parents wanted me to be  involved in as many physical activities as possible growing up, so that I would know that even though I may look a little different than everyone else, I was still able to do anything anyone could do.
My parent's idea worked because I was way too busy having fun and making friends to worry about looking different. I never even considered myself disabled because I could always do everything I put my mind to. Naturally, I thought that competitive swimming wouldn't be any different than the other sports I tried. At first it wasn't. I was having so much fun with my friends learning new skills and drills and loving every minute of it. However, at my first competition, an official told me that I should get classified and go to special meets to compete against other swimmers at my ability level.
At the time I had no idea what he was talking about, but later my coach explained to me about SWAD (Swimmers with a Disability).
He told me that there was a part of competitive swimming where swimmers who had disabilities could compete against other swimmers with the same level of function. He also told me that I qualified to compete at SWAD nationals. I was totally blown away by this because as I had learned from other swimmers in my club, it sometimes took years of hard work to qualify for nationals.
I was excited to be able to travel and go away with the older kids in the club but I really wasn't sure what to expect once I was there. At the end of the meet I had won 3 medals and qualified for the team going to compete at the US nationals later that year. This all came as quite a shock to me and I was not quite sure what it all meant.
At the end of my first season of competitive swimming I questioned if I wanted to continue swimming SWAD. I had never held different standards for myself before and I didn't want to start then. I went on for the next little while debating whether I should continue to swim SWAD or just swim as an able-bodied person. Then after years of hard work and dedication and competing at various able-bodied meets and SWAD competitions around the world I came to realize something; the majority of SWAD swimmers were just like me, wanting to be known as merely an athlete, no questions asked. I also realized that SWAD swimming was still developing and expanding and that I could be a part of that. I could still train and compete with able-bodied swimmers and at the same time represent my country in SWAD competitions.

Over the next few years I competed in many competitions and qualified for able-bodied junior nationals as well as making the 2000 Paralympic team going to Australia. I had competed in many international competitions up until this point but nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to experience in Sydney .
I have never felt such energy in my life as when I walked out onto the deck the night of the finals for the 400M freestyle and saw all the cheering faces. It was a wall of energy, and all I felt was how much I wanted to get up, and show the world what I could do. During the race I didn't even see any of the other competitors. I don't remember what I was thinking about. I don't remember any of my turns or even touching the wall at the finish, but the feeling I had when I looked up and saw my time (a time that was 4 seconds under my best time and 2 seconds under the previous world record) and realized I had won the gold medal, is a feeling that will stay with me forever. At that moment all I felt was triumph. Triumph over myself and all of the obstacles that lay in the way of achieving my goal. I now knew that I could put my heart and soul, blood, sweat, tears, and everything I had in me, into one dream. A dream race that would take less than 5 minutes, but leave me with something that would last forever. It left me with a little more confidence, and a lot more faith in people and their dreams. If a person really wants something that much and not only wants it, but is willing to do whatever it takes to get it, then there is nothing that cannot be achieved.

 I was so happy about reaching the goals that I had for Sydney and it was an amazing experience but my swimming career was far from over. There were still so many things that I wanted to do and achieve as a swimmer. So I celebrated my performances for a few days but then it was back home and back to work. I have learned not to let myself get too caught up in any one swim or any one competition because whether the race went well or not, it's not good to dwell on it. I always try and look ahead and make new goals. No matter how well a race went there is always room for improvement and always an opportunity to get better.
So now, almost 4 years later, I am still training and still loving it. I am in my first year at the University of Victoria and training with the varsity team here. In the summer I qualified for the Paralympics in Greece next September and that is what I am training for now. I am also trying to qualify for able-bodied nationals, which I hope to get this year. So I will remain training and competing with able body swimmers as well as competing at SWAD competitions. In my swimming career I have learned that it doesn't matter whether I come first at a SWAD meet or 30th at an able-bodied meet. What matters is trying to better my own times and being proud of all the time and effort that went into each swim. It doesn't matter whom I am swimming against
because the real competition is with myself.

The nature of sport is competition and challenge, competing and challenging yourself to become the best athlete possible and to bring the best out of yourself. The bottom line is that I am an athlete trying to do just that. Not a SWAD athlete and not an able-bodied athlete, but an athlete… period.
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Swimming Canada Athlete Profile
Stephanie Dixon takes turn in spotlight with gold
UVic's Stephanie Dixon - A Swimming Success
Stephanie Dixon - Goal Setting Her Way to Success
Benoit Huot and Stephanie Dixon lead Canadian medal bonanza at British swimming championships
Kirby Cote and Stephanie Dixon complete multi-medal performances at Paralympic Games
The Heart of a Champion - Stephanie Dixon
Stephanie Dixon, you are a sensation
UVic's Stephanie Dixon - A Swimming Success
Kirby Cote and Stephanie Dixon complete multi-medal performances
Gudgeon, Dixon SportBC's Athlete's of the Year
Stephanie Dixon Named BC Female SWAD (Swimmer with a Disability) of the Year
Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity - Following Canadian Women to Athens
Three Paralympians on List of Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity
Pacific Coast Swimming News

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