Thanks, but no thanks: Katarina Roxon declines participation in Sport NL awards

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Thanks, but no thanks: Katarina Roxon declines participation in Sport NL awards

Despite bringing home gold in the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Katarina Roxon will not be a contender for senior female athlete of the year at this year's Sport Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial annual awards.

Katarina, along with father and coach Leonard Roxon, have asked that her name be left off the ballot, citing ethical issues with Sport NL's nomination and selection processes.

Speaking with the Corner Brook Morning Show, Leonard Roxon said he particularly has an issue with the fact that athletes who may be residing and training outside the province are included on the ballot, along with athletes like Katrina who live in Newfoundland year-round.

Leonard Roxon said that, with the exception of national team camps, Katarina has lived and trained in Newfoundland her entire career.

"This is seriously flawed thinking," he said. "If this is truly an award for sport for people of this province, make sure it is for the Newfoundlanders who have chosen to live and train in this province. An athlete can live and train in Newfoundland and still be the best in the world." 

Unclear rules

Roxon said he has been bringing the issue to the attention of Sport NL for years — even years in which Katarina has taken home an award. Roxon has won five Athlete of the Year awards.

He said Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province which does not prioritise athletes who train and reside in the province year round.

Roxon also takes issue with Sport NL's selection process, saying the criteria is unclear and that often times top athletes miss out on awards in favour of new faces who are chosen to keep up interest among new applicants.

"Last year was our final straw. We said enough is enough — we just don't want to be a part of this," he said. "Ethics is ethics, it can't be bought or sold. You either have it or you don't have it ... this is an ethical issue."

A matter of development

Executive Director of Sport NL Troy Croft said while he regrets that Katarina's name will not be on the ballot, he respects the Roxons' choice.

"We're certainly upset about it," he said. "We always want our best athletes nominated. We feel that Katarina should have been nominated this year."

In response to Leonard Roxon's claim that top athletes are being overlooked, Croft thinks the current process is sound. 

For the Sport NL selection process, member organizations submit a nomination for each category. A nominating committee selects the three finalists and ultimately the winner.

Croft said that while the committee is given guidelines for evaluation, at the end of the day members have autonomy to make decisions as they see fit. 

For many athletes, according to Croft, the provincial system can only take them so far and they have to leave the province for development.

"You'd be eliminating a lot of quality athletes if you only limited it to those who live in the province. These are athletes who have been developed by our system, but at a certain point in their career they have to move on in order to excel," he said.

"We certainly would have liked to have Katarina on the ballot, because what she accomplished is outstanding, but at the end of the day it was their decision and we felt that we should respect it."