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ORDER OF CANADA – Stephanie Dixon, seen here in a 2016 file photo, was appointed as a member to the Order of Canada Friday. Dixon won 19 medals as a Paralympic swimmer for Canada at three Summer Games.

Yukon Paralympian receives Order of Canada

Sitting in Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters in the Yukon “bubble,” Whitehorse Paralympic swimmer Stephanie Dixon received news she had been named to the Order of Canada, something she thought wasn’t likely when nominated a year ago.

By Dustin Cook on January 2, 2018

Sitting in Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters in the Yukon “bubble,” Whitehorse Paralympic swimmer Stephanie Dixon received news she had been named to the Order of Canada, something she thought wasn’t likely when nominated a year ago.

Dixon said in an interview with the Star Tuesday morning that she was contacted about a year ago by a manager of the Canadian Paralympic swim team who wanted to nominate her decorated swimmer for the recognition.

“I didn’t think there was any way I would get it though,” Dixon said. “It’s such a prestigious, amazing award, it was very kind of her to want to nominate me, but I thought it wasn’t in the realm of possibility.”

Fast-forward a year, Dixon received an email from the Order of Canada office with some exciting news and was told over the phone while sitting in the Whitehorse coffeehouse.

“Tears started to fill my eyes, this is wild,” Dixon said. “Living up here in the Yukon, we’re in a bit of a bubble. It’s a community of very incredible and accomplished people, but most flying under the radar.”

That bubble has now been burst for the 19-time Paralympic medallist.

“It did come as a bit of a surprise to be honest. I don’t think anyone’s goal is ever to be receiving the Order of Canada,” she said.

The phone call came about two weeks ago and Dixon said she was asked to keep it a secret until the official announcement came from the Governor General Friday.

Dixon was one of 125 new appointments to the Order and she will be heading to Ottawa later in the year for a ceremony to accept the insignia.

There were four companions, 35 officers and 86 members appointed to the Order.

Dixon’s short citation for the Order says “for achieving excellence in the sport of swimming and for her leadership as an advocate for parasport.”

Originally from Brampton, Ont., Dixon is one of Canada’s most successful Paralympic swimmers. She has won 19 Paralympic medals at three Summer Paralympic Games.

As a 16-year-old, Dixon won five gold medals at the 2000 Games in Sydney and two silvers. She set three world records in the 100-metre backstroke and the 100 and 400-metre freestyle events.

After her Paralympic career, Dixon moved up to the Yukon in the summer of 2011.

“I planned to stay for a short visit and fell in love with the community,” she said.

Dixon was head coach of the Whitehorse Glacier Bears for two years when she first re-located and is now the coach for the Yukon Graylings Masters Swim Club as well as a private motivational swim coach.

Even though not born and raised in the Yukon, Dixon said she is proud to be the lone recipient out of the most recent appointments representing the territory.

“The Yukon is full of so many incredibly humble people, sometimes you’ve known somebody for years and you have no idea what they’ve done for their life,” Dixon said. “I’m really proud to be representing the Yukon for that reason. I love our community, love the values Yukon has.”

In November 2016, Dixon was inducted into Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame for her accomplishments.

This recognition as well as the recent appointment to the Order helps put accessible sports in the spotlight, Dixon said.

“To show we are recognizing people of all walks of life,” she said. “The range of diversity that we are recognizing in Canada has grown and I’m very happy to be a part of that.

“You want success to be something that all people can strive for, I think it is really important that Paralympic sport is put in the spotlight.”

Following her record-setting performance in Sydney winning the most gold medals at single Games for Canada, Dixon won one gold, six silver and one bronze medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece increasing her medal total to 15.

In her final Paralympic Games, Dixon would add four more medals, including a gold medal in the 100-metre backstroke which she won at all three Games.

In addition, Dixon broke her own world record in the race.

Born without a right leg and hip, Dixon began swimming at the age of two.

She began swimming competitively at the age of 13 against able-bodied athletes. Dixon made Canada’s Paralympic swim team at 14 and competed at her first Games two years later.

Even though she was told two weeks ago and had some time for it to settle in, Dixon said the appointment still feels like a dream and she is excited to head to Ottawa to accept the honour on behalf of everyone in her life who helped her get to this point.

“Nobody accomplishes everything by themselves,” Dixon said on the support she received throughout her career. “It’s an incredible honour and I’m real excited to go meet the Governor General and be a part of this ceremony.”

Comments (1)

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Arthur Mitchell on Jan 4, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Stephanie, what a wonderful acknowledgment of your incredible accomplishments in sport and as a spokesperson for differently able athletes! We’ve never met, but I’m betting I’m just one of many Yukoners who have cheered you on and admired you from afar. Congratulations!

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