Katarina Roxon battles from behind to pounce on gold medal

September 14, 2016

By Jim Morris

RIO DE JANEIRO _ The Kat pounced and snagged herself a gold medal.

Katarina Roxon of Kippens, NL, battled from behind to win the S8 100-metre breaststroke in an America’s record time of one minute, 19.44 seconds Wednesday night.

An emotional Roxon shed tears of joy after winning her first medal in three Paralympic appearances.

“It’s been three years coming,” said the 23-year-old who was born missing her left arm below the elbow.

“At first I didn’t want to look (at the scoreboard). I knew I was going to be happy with how I did. When I saw first, I was so shocked.”

It was Canada’s fifth swimming medal _ three gold, two silver _ of the Paralympics.

Canadians were in three other finals.

Jonathan Dieleman of Telwa, B.C., finished fifth in the S3 50-m breaststroke in 50.21 seconds.  Nicolas-Guy Turbide of Quebec City swam a personal best 25.52 to finish eighth in the S13 50-m freestyle.

The men’s 34-point 4x100-m relay team of Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., Nathan Clement of West Vancouver, B.C., Zack McAllister of Lethbridge, Alta., and Nathan Stein of Maple Ridge, B.C. were seventh in 4:12.60.

Roxon swam a patient, smart race. Claire Cashmore of Great Britain launched herself off the blocks and led after 50 metres. Roxon swam her down in the last half to touch the wall.

Roxon said she was following the strategy laid out by her Paralympic coach Vince Mikuska.

“Usually I always go out super fast,” she said. “For the last year or so I have been trying to control myself a little bit more.

“My coach told me the girls would be shooting out of a canon. He said just remember to keep your composure, focus on what you have to do, and come back strong.”

Cashmore took silver in 1:20.60 while Ireland’s Ellen Keane was third in 1:23.07.

Roxon had the fastest qualifying time in the morning preliminaries. Her time of 1:21.17 broke her own America’s record of 1:21.97 she set winning a bronze medal at last summer’s IPC’s IPC Swimming World Championships.

Roxon was 15 when she competed at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Her best result four years later in London was a fifth in this race.

“I did have a lot of set backs, a lot of injuries,” she said. “To finally be here and say ‘I’m a gold medallist,’ it’s unbelievable.

“I’m a lot older, a lot more mature. I’ve been to this stage so many times it finally hit me what I needed to do, the exact mindset. Where my head needed to be and my heart needed to be.”

Dieleman’s S3 50-m breast was a close battle.

China’s Zhipeng Jin won in a world-record time of 47.54. Then just .29 of a second separated third from fifth.

Being close was little consolation for Dieleman, who swam an America’s record 50.08 in the morning.

“I’m happy I made it here,” said the former amateur rodeo rider who broke his back in a dirt bike accident. “It’s been a year training to get here.

“I’m a little disappointed with my result. I thought I could do better. It was really close. I’ll take it for now.”

Turbide never expected to reach the 50-m free final for the visually impaired. His time in the final lowered the personal best of 25.54 seconds he swam in the morning.

He used the final as preparation for his best event, the 100-m backstroke, which he will swim later in the week.

“I took it as a learning experience,” said the 19-year-old. “I now know what is the feeling behind the blocks in a final compared to the heats.

“It’s a totally different game and now I will be ready for my next event.”

Ihar Boki of Belarus, who holds the world record of 23.20, won in a Paralympic record time of 23.44 seconds.

In other results Wednesday:

_ Gordie Michie of St. Thomas, Ont., swam a personal best time of 1:12.01 to finish 11th in the S14 100-m breaststroke.

_ Tammy Cunnington of Red Deer, Alta., was 13th in the S3 50-m breaststroke in 1:19.78.

_ Devin Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., swam 27.24 to finish 19th in the S13 50-m freestyle.