Nfld. & Labrador

Katarina Roxon and family celebrate 'pure joy' of Paralympic gold

Reality hasn't quite sunk in for Katarina Roxon and her father/coach Leonard Roxon, after the Kippens swimmer stood atop the podium in Rio Wednesday evening.

'This is my kid, and she's the best in the world'

Leonard & Lisa Roxon

6 years ago
Duration 2:16
The parents of gold medalist Katarina Roxon tell the CBC's Colleen Connors how they felt watching her race in the 100-metre breaststroke.

Just after her gold medal win, Katarina Roxon was nearly speechless — and not just from the exertion in the Rio pool.

"There's no words right now. I'm just so excited, so ecstatic right now," Roxon told reporters while wiping away tears.

Back in her hometown of Kippens, her two biggest fans were similarly pinching themselves about seeing their daughter atop the podium.

"My heart was in my hand," said her mother, Lisa Roxon. "I didn't want to take my eyes off the screen; at the same time I wanted to close my eyes ... I was just pumped up just watching her ... Through all my tears, I had no voice to yell."

Leonard Roxon, Katarina's father and coach, said it was one of the best swims his daughter has ever had on a technical level.

Emotions overtake Katarina Roxon in the seconds after winning gold in the 100-metre breaststroke Wednesday evening. (Photo Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee)

"Mom is a basket of tears, and I feel grateful, I feel good about the race," he said. "It was pure joy. Pure joy."

It was a joy felt not only in the Roxon household, but across Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of Canada as well, as Roxon roared past the other swimmers in the 100-metre breaststroke Wednesday evening, setting a personal best en route to clinching her first ever Paralympic medal, in her third Paralympic Games.

'A beautiful race'

Leonard Roxon doubles as Katarina's coach, and as such, had a hard time relaxing and just taking in the race.

"While watching it, I was more wearing my coach hat than my dad hat. I was analyzing the race," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

He said everything about the event, from Roxon's confident walk out onto the pool deck to her blistering last 50 metres, showed she was bringing her 'A' game.

Paralympic gold medallist Katarina Roxon's parents, Leonard and Lisa, are all smiles after being presented with T-shirts reading "Katarina Roxon - Our Golden Girl." (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Katarina Roxon felt similarly focused throughout her event, heeding the words of her poolside coach.

"My coach was telling me just to be long, remember to be long. He told me the girls are going to shoot out of a cannon right at the start, so just remember to keep your composure," she said.

"It was a beautiful race, it was the best technical race I've ever seen Katarina swim," said Leonard Roxon, adding it was only later that his coach hat slipped off and everything sank in.

"When the medal ceremony went on, that's when it hit me — this is my kid, and she's the best in the world."

Dad and coach Leonard Roxon said Katarina's start on Wednesday was a fast one, helping set the scene early for her first place finish.

'She roared like a lion'

Katarina Roxon's training partner has also been beaming with pride since the big win.

"She wanted this. She worked so hard for this over the past number of years. She wanted to stand on that podium and she got it," said Jackie Chaulk-Nippard, in the pair's usual stomping grounds of the Bay St. George YMCA.

Jackie Chaulk-Nippard trains with Roxon, and says she can be a "lion" in competition. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"I wouldn't have been any more proud if it had been my own child, 'cause that's what I think of her as."

At the Y, Chaulk-Nippard and Roxon are fiercely dedicated to their training, beginning sessions with a 25-minute stretch of high intensity intervals on the treadmill before moving on to lunges, squats and other strengthening exercises. 

"When she gets her mind to it, she turns into this lion," said Chaulk-Nippard.

"And boy I tell you, she roared like the lion last night."

Katarina Roxon competed again Thursday morning, in a heat for the 100-metre butterfly, but finished 16th overall and missed making it to the finals for that race.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show, Corner Brook Morning Show, and Colleen Connors