GRAND BANK, NL – A Paralympic gold-medal winner at the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro delivered an inspirational message at the Provincial Student Leadership Conference at John Burke High School Friday morning.
Katarina Roxon, who is from Kippens on the province's west coast, told students anything is possible if you dream big and push yourself past your limits.
Roxon explained that even though she was born missing her left arm below the elbow, she never saw it as a disability.
“I didn’t see myself as disabled. I just saw a few more challenges ahead of me. For me it was fun, because I love challenging myself – I am a very competitive person.”
Roxon had a special message for the students.
“I am here to tell you to dream big,” she said. “I had a dream to win a Paralympic gold medal at 13. It took me 10 years to finally succeed with that dream, but last year I did it, winning a gold medal in the 100-metre breaststroke in Rio.”
She challenged the students to dream big as well.
"Every day you should try to be better than you were yesterday. When people tell you can’t do something, don’t say anything back. Prove to them you can do it with your actions. Keep trying – there’s always a way.”
Roxon said she wasn’t really inspired by famous athletes or swimmers.
“My teachers/coaches were the ones who inspired me most,” she said. “They pushed me past my limits. At times, they may seem harsh but that is because they want what is the best for you.”
The young athlete is undoubtedly a proud Newfoundlander.
“We are considered a very small province,” she said. “A lot of people don’t expect very much from us.
“For the younger generation coming up, it is very important to have big dreams, to set big goals, to push these barriers and to overcome them,” she said.
The students were impressed.
Anna Burke, a student from Marystown Central High School, was deeply moved by Roxon’s words.
“It was phenomenal; it was so inspirational for me. It gave me the courage to tell my own story living with autism. It made me feel anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard.”