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A ‘golden’ Paralympian’s Vellore connection

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Canadian swimmer Katarina overcame disability, proved grandmother right

When Canada’s Katarina Roxon swam her way to her first Paralympics gold medal at Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, one family on the other side of the planet — in Vellore — was ecstatic. The 23-year-old swimmer has her roots in the town, as her paternal grandparents have made it their home.

Katarina finished on top in the 100-metre breaststroke finals. Her father and coach Leonard Roxon left Vellore for Canada with his wife Lisa in 1990. The couple, who studied physiotherapy in Christian Medical College now run a physiotherapy clinic in Newfoundland, Canada. Her grandfather, Athanasius Roxon Dhayasingh, now 82, moved to Vellore in 1964 and grandmother Rosemary Roxon, retired as a nurse in the Psychiatry Department of CMC.

The victory brought tears to Katarina’s grandmother’s eyes. It took her back to the day when she was born in Canada. “I got a call from my son after she was born. He was crying, saying she was born without her left forearm. I started to cry but I told him God will bless her and she will make it big,” she recalls.

“When I spoke to her, I told her to relax, try and give it her best. I felt very happy when I was informed that she had won gold,” Mr. Dayasingh said.

Hard work pays

It was the winner’s cousin, Ira, who kept track of her events at Rio. “I saw online that she had won the gold, and informed my family,” she said. Katarina along with her parents and elder sister had visited them two years ago.

Speaking over phone, Leonard Roxon said he felt great about his daughter’s achievement. “She has put in years of hard work. She swims for at least five to six hours a day,” he said.

Katarina has bagged several medals in various championships. “She is also competing in the 100 metres butterfly, medley relay and freestyle relay at Rio.

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