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Sledge hockey hero Dixon a winner on ice and off

Legendary world medalist remains true to his local roots
2020-03-10 dh
Adam Dixon (middle) shares a laugh with his teammates Charles Guilfoyle (front) and Peter Ma (rear) during sledge hockey practice at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre in Midland. Derek Howard/MidlandToday

Talent is a statistic too difficult to measure, best displayed as one’s achievements. No matter the sport, being a repeated medalist in a high-level field of competition is praiseworthy.

For Midland-born, sledge-hockey Paralympian and multiple gold medalist Adam Dixon, that talent is on display every time he hits the ice.
“I’ve never had the give-up attitude,” says Dixon. “Maybe that’s why I’ve been successful in hockey. In terms of having cancer, I had no clue what was going on.”

Dixon refers to the caring shelter that his parents shielded him from when, at age 10, he underwent bone cancer surgery which removed and replaced his right tibia.
“I remember Grade 9 science class; we had this unit on cancer. I came home and said ‘Hey, mom, I was in pretty dire situation there, eh?’”
In 2000, a year after his surgery, Dixon found an opportunity with the Elmvale Bears in sledge hockey — a sport tailored toward athletes with physical disabilities in their lower bodies. It is played seated in sledges and using shortened sticks for each hand that are teethed on the handle for acceleration and manoeuvrability.
The Bears have honed Dixon’s talent ever since and upon joining Canada’s national team in 2006, his skills were given a world audience. With Dixon’s aggressive playing style on offence and defence, Canada won silver in the 2018 Paralympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and bronze in Sochi, Russia during the 2014 games. Dixon has also won golds, silvers and bronzes over the last decade in numerous international tournaments and championships with Team Canada.

These days, Dixon works with the Bears as a player development director and an elite coach, two areas where his experience has proven invaluable. Several members of the Bears are also on the national team: Rod Crane of Thornbury, James Dunn of Wallacetown and Barrie's Curtis Duguay, who's on the development squad.

“I’m just there to help with the skills. I’m think that’s something I was really good with was my puck skills, and I try to work with them on that.”
Sledge hockey, known officially as Para Hockey, differs between the teams Canada and the United States present due to varying roster numbers, according to Dixon.
“Medicine is so good now that we [Canada] don’t have as many athletes and the U.S. does well because they get a lot of war vets. It’s such a niche sport. You’re not going to find more athletes, so that’s kind of annoying for sledge hockey, but it’s also understandable that we live in 2020 and medicine’s pretty good nowadays. It’s kind of silly because you’re not asking for more people to get injured to get into the sport.”
Growing up and surviving cancer gave Dixon a prominent voice within the 2004 CKVR documentary entitled Cancer Kids: Fighting and Winning. Finding strong support within his friends and family has helped shape who he has become.
“My mom, sister, uncle Jim,” says Dixon, “they’ve been to every Olympics. My little cousin Hannah, she’s been to plenty of my games too.”

Dixon hasn’t limited himself to challenges on the ice. Whether building his own house or repairing small engines, Dixon is continually on the search for self-improvement and is quite proud of the accomplishments created by his own fortitude.
Two up-and-coming athletes that Dixon has vested interest in watching are Liam Brearley, a snowboarder from Gravenhurst, whom Dixon states “is wicked” and the Barrie Colts’ own Ian Lemieux, whom Dixon coincidentally once lived beside.

“It’s cool to see a local kid being successful,” Dixon says with a smile.