Griffith athlete goes for (more) gold at World Para Championships

Gold medal collector Katja Dedekind has qualified for the 2023 World Para swimming Championships. Photo: Wade J Brennan

First-year criminology student and Griffith athlete Katja Dedekind has been selected to compete at the 2023 World Para Swimming Championships after sweeping success at this month’s National Swimming titles on the Gold Coast.

Katja’s prosperous efforts in the pool saw her secure three gold medals and a spot in the Dolphins national swim team alongside two other Griffith athletes.

Ms Dedekind took home 3 Gold medals at the National Swimming Titles, despite elbow surgery weeks earlier. Photo: Wade J Brennan

“These trials were a big deal for me because I’ve had a lot of health issues recently,” said Ms Dedekind.

“A couple of weeks before trials, I had to have an elbow surgery because I swam into the wall too hard.”

Ms Dedekind was born with congenital cataracts and amblyopia which limits vision in her left eye and caused blindness in her right eye.

Despite this, she has collected a suite of medals and broken a world record at last year’s Commonwealth games.

“I swim for my obsession for racing, the feeling before and after, the adrenaline rush during — that’s what gets me through the training sessions,” she said.

“This international racing has given me an itch that I haven’t been able to scratch.

“I know that if I don’t keep pushing myself in training and I get to worlds and don’t scratch that itch, then I’m going to be really frustrated with myself.”

Between her first Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, Commonwealth Games and four World Championships, Katja has witnessed recognition of Paralympic sports grow in what is positively dubbed the ‘Paralympic movement.’

“I think seeing that progress gives me more drive to train every day because I love that other athletes are getting recognition and I’m helping that,” she said.

“It’s also exciting to think about the future.

“I want to swim until Brisbane 2032, and I think if we’ve had this must progress in seven years, imagine what we can achieve in the next nine.”

Balancing a busy swim schedule with study and work can often be a juggle, but Ms Dedekind, who has been described as a ‘sunflower’ due to her height and bubbly demeaner, thrives off any opportunity to grow and learn in all areas of her life.

“The reason why I am studying a criminology degree is number one, I find it so interesting, but at the same time, I think there’s only so much stimulation I could get from just swimming and work,” she said.

“Not only do I think it’s really healthy for my mental and emotional health to do something completely opposite to my swimming career, but it’s also exciting to know that when this career does end, I can move into the next chapter of my life.”

Griffith student Tom Gallagher and alumnus Rowan Crothers will join Ms Dedekind in Manchester for the Para-Swimming World Championships after their own gold-medal glory at Nationals.

Katja Dedekind, Tom Gallagher and Rowan Crothers stand amongst the 26 chosen for Australian Dolphins swim team ahead of the Para Swimming championships.

The watershed event on Swimming Australia’s calendar saw mass representation, record-breaking races and rewards for Griffith students, alumni and swim squad members.

Griffith’s athletes, including high performance squad members Kaylee McKeown and Zac Stubblety-Cook, took home a total of 32 medals.

Of the 10 Griffith swimmers to compete in the Age Nationals, each secured a personal-best and took home 12 medals, seven of those being gold.

This marks Griffith’s best performance at a National Age Championships to date with Hayley Mackinder having also been selected in the Junior Australian Swimming Team to compete at the Junior World Championships in Israel later this year.