Stephanie Dixon is an elite athlete, pure and simple. Her spirit, passion and drive are what separate her from the rest of the pack. Despite being born with only one leg, Stephanie has trained and competed against able-bodied athletes at the local, provincial, and national level and she is almost without peer in her athletic career.
Before her commitment to swimming, Stephanie was involved in many sports including baseball, gymnastics, diving, skiing and horseback riding. Her parents wanted her to be involved in as many physical activities as possible while growing up, so that she would know that even though she looked a little different than everyone else, she was still able to do anything anyone could do. Their strategy worked and then some.
Stephanie has commented that:
"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."
Stephanie started competitive swimming when she was 13 years old and at her very first competition, an official informed her that she should get classified and go to special meets to compete against other swimmers at her ability level. This was her introduction to the world of SWAD (Swimmers with a Disability).
At the age of 16 at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney she won five gold medals, all world records -- setting a new Canadian record for most gold medals won at a single Games. Representing her country again at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, she won one gold, six silver, and one bronze, setting a new world record in the 100 metre backstroke. In 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, Stephanie won gold, silver and bronze, and once again broke her world record mark in the 100 metre backstroke.
In 2003, Stephanie moved from Toronto to Victoria to pursue a degree in Psychology and compete for the UVic varsity swim team. She represented the university against able-bodied athletes after qualifying for the Canadian University Championships. She placed 16th in the 200 metre backstroke while setting a new world record in her Para category. For the accomplishment, Stephanie was named the University of Victoria Athlete of the Year in 2005, a title she won again in her second year.
While Stephanie has been out of competition since 2010, she left the sport with 19 Paralympic medals (7 gold, 10 silver, and 2 bronze) and still holds the World Record in her Para category for the 50, 100, and 200 metre backstrokes.
There can be no argument with her observation:
"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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Maureen's interest in sports started by playing tennis on the grass court in the backyard of the family home. When it was converted to a victory garden during World War II, she attended a summer tennis program on clay courts at the B.C. Electric Tennis Club under instructor Jim Bardsley.
Her career soon ignited as a student at UBC. Maureen competed in badminton, field hockey and swimming, and she won an unprecedented nine Big Blocks (four badminton, four swimming and one field hockey), a record that held for several years.
Her career in badminton started with winning the B.C. Junior Badminton Championships in her first year at UBC. She followed this up by reaching the B.C. finals the following year. In 1950 Maureen helped UBC win the Washington State invitational badminton tournament, and with her partner, Anne Munro, won the ladies' doubles in straight games. She capped the year by representing B.C. at the Canadian Badminton Championships in Winnipeg.
Maureen was taught to swim at age 4 by the great Archie McKinnon, and was an integral part of the swim team during her years at UBC. She was the team's best at breast stroke and a member of the freestyle relay team, but her specialty was synchronized swimming in which she was considered a pioneer in B.C.
In 1949 the UBC School of Physical Education sponsored B.C.'s first Synchronized Swimming Championship. UBC did not win the team title but Maureen won the individual championship. She also represented B.C in the Canadian Synchronized Swim Championships in Winnipeg.
Maureen was a member of UBC's very strong field hockey team that dominated both the local and U.S. Pacific Northwest competitions. The team won the Vancouver City League and the Women's Northwest Field Hockey Tournament in 1950, having had no goals scored against it during tournament play.
Maureen played competitive badminton from age 14 to 74. She played at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club, the Carlton Club in Toronto, the Victoria Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club, Victoria Racquet Club and the Brentwood Community Badminton Club. Her illustrious career included 7 Club titles, 20 City titles, 4 Pacific Northwest titles, 40 Provincial titles, 6 National titles and 2 International titles. Remarkably, Maureen won these titles at the junior, open, senior, masters, grand master and golden master levels.
In 1958 Maureen took up golf after tearing her knee cartilage. She has competed in the B.C. Summer Games winning four gold and two silver medals. In 1981 Maureen won a spot on the City Zone team and went to the Senior Women's Provincial Championship. She was named as an alternate to the B.C. Senior Women's golf team for the Canadian Championship on Cape Breton Island and has been a member of the Hunting Cup team 12 times - an annual competition between Victoria and Vancouver. She still golfs several times a week.
Maureen's exceptional athletic career at UBC led to her induction into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Sponsored by Mann, Moulson & Co.