The journey to becoming a top Paralympic swimmer started when Stephanie Dixon saw herself in someone she admired.
Dixon was born with one leg and wore a prosthetic. As a child, she struggled to identify with people in positions of power or influence. But there was one day each year where anything felt possible.
“On the Terry Fox run every September, I was the cool kid who ran just like Terry Fox,” she told CBC’s The Early Edition.
“As a child with a disability it was hard to feel cool and like I fit in. So on that one day every single year, I got to be just like my hero, Terry Fox.”
The 19-time Paralympic medallist is Canada’s chef de mission for the 2020 Paralympic Games. She is also a health and wellness coach for the third season of Mind Set Go, a documentary series that shows the journey of how Canadians living with disabilities, injuries or chronic pain reach their goals for a healthier future.
As a Paralympian, she’s become a role model for the show’s participants, showing them how much they can accomplish with the right mindset.
One participant acquired her disability later in life, after having two strokes. It changed her life dramatically, but she wanted to maintain her independence and be able to keep up with her grandkids. Dixon said it was inspiring to see her gain confidence throughout the course of the show.
“There’s some physical challenges that they all face, but even more so than that was challenges in their mindset,” Dixon said.
“Things that were holding them back from just beliefs about ourselves and what we can accomplish.”
Dixon said she believes shows like Mind Set Go show just how much the human body can accomplish when people believe they are capable.
“We all need role models, but most importantly role models that we identify with,” she said.
It’s also making Canada more inclusive and connected by helping viewers understand the challenges — and capabilities — of people with disabilities,” she added.
She said she’s seen positive change within society throughout her lifetime in how people with disabilities are understood and accepted.
She said it is an honour to represent Canadian Paralympians this summer.
“We are becoming much more accessible physically, inclusive from an emotional and community standpoint,” she said.
“I do feel like a valued, appreciated, heard and seen member of society and I have a visible disability … we are making progress.”