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September 11, 2008

Victoria swimmer Dixon wins 2nd Paralympic medal

Canadian swimmer Stephanie Dixon earned her second medal of the Paralympics following a silver-medal performance in the women's SM9 200-metre individual medley on Thursday in Beijing.

The Victoria resident touched the wall in two minutes 37.54 seconds, finishing 9.71 seconds behind South Africa's Natalie du Toit, who won her third gold medal of the Beijing Games. Du Toit shaved 2.09 seconds off her own world record.

Germany's Louise Watkin finished third in 2:40.31, while Brittany Gray of Barrie, Ont., placed sixth in 2:45.49.

Dixon, 24, a bronze medallist in the 100-metre freestyle earlier in the week, knocked three seconds off her personal-best time on Thursday.

"To me the medals are awesome but it all comes down to what you had to do to get them and what kind of courage you had to pull out of yourself," said Dixon.

"If every single time there is someone right there fighting you, then you're going to have to pull a little bit extra strength, a little extra courage. When you get to show those things, for sure it means a whole lot more."

Paralympics no longer 'black sheep': Tildesley
Dixon has been one of the most successful international swimmers ever at the Paralympics.

Over the two previous Games, she has won a total 13 medals, including six golds.

Born without a right leg and hip, she began competing against able-bodied athletes at 13, and made Canada's national team for swimmers with a disability a year later.

"The last two Games I've watched how the Paralympics have expanded and created more depth," said Dixon. "Each race means so much more when you have a whole bunch of people to race neck-and-neck against.

"Back in Sydney [in 2000], our class wasn't as powerful as it is now. Now everybody has to fight for every single last [hundredths] of a second."

Du Toit, 24, praised Dixon's longevity at the Paralympics.

"Before I came along, she was winning all the gold medals," said du Toit, who lost her left leg in a 2001 motorbike accident. "She's still there, she is still hanging on. She's taking off so many seconds of her time. She really does keep me going."

Canada won two other medals in the pool Thursday.

Vancouver's Donovan Tildesley, Canada's flag-bearer during the opening ceremony, took a bronze medal in the men's S11 400 freestyle.

Montreal's Benoit Huot also collected a bronze in the men's SM10 200 IM.

Tildesley said winning a medal at the Paralympics is getting harder.

"The world is stepping it up," he said. "It's great to see Paralympic sport being brought to another level. I think this is a wakeup call for the general public that the Paralympics are no longer the black sheep of the family, the long-distance second cousin to the Olympics."





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