(Grace Norman’s mother, Robin, has been providing almost nightly updates from the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Here’s Robin’s account of Grace’s bronze medal performance Monday night. — ED.)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — “What an incredible 36 hours for this young lady! First, Grace had the race of her young 18-year life in the women’s PT-4 triathlon to net a gold medal on Sunday.
“Then, she spent the night at Copacabana Beach in our hotel. The U.S. Olympic Committee picked her up at 6 a.m. Monday morning with her gold-medal winning triathlon teammate Allysa Seely (women’s PT-2 triathlon) to return to the Paralympic Village in prep for Monday night’s track races.
(Seely competed in the women’s T36 category 200-meter run on Tuesday.)
“Grace asked the U.S. track coach what would be best for her to do on Monday morning. His answer? ‘SLEEP!’
“Now anyone who knows Grace well, knows that she can sleep!!! She took a 3-hour nap, then woke up and began preparations for her race.”
(Norman ran a personal-best in the women’s T-44 category 400-meter run final, crossing the finish line in 1:01.83 to earn the bronze medal. Amelie-Marie le Fur of France won the race with a world-record time of 59.27 seconds, and Irmgard Bensusan of Germany won the silver medal with a time of 59.62. Both le Fur and Bensusan surpassed the previous world record mark of 1:00.78 set by Marlou Van Rhijn of the Netherlands in 2014.)
“To make history yesterday with the first paratriathlon gold medal for the U.S. and raising that flag, especially on 9/11, remembering and being thankful for my freedom, was just amazing,” Norman said. “Then tonight, to win bronze in the 400-meter was just incredible. I’m just so thankful to represent my country on a big stage like this. … Going into it, I just wanted to see how it would go and would be happy no matter the outcome, as long as I did my best. I did that today and the outcome was a bronze medal, so I’m super pleased with that.”
(Grace’s parents and a large group of Team USA supporters had staked out some Olympic Stadium seats roughly 20 meters from the finish line. While they awaited the start, they met members of the Brazilian Athletes In Action group who were on hand handing out Bibles to fans.)
“Grace entered the stadium with the rest of the 400-meter competitors, and our U.S. support team cheered loudly. She smiled and was thrilled to see us and the stadium. She had not been in the Olympic Stadium until that very moment, and says the sheer size of it electrified her.
“The excitement mounted as they went through the announcement of the competitors. Grace was in Lane One, due to random draw since the semi-final had been cancelled. As the gun sounded, the runners were off! Grace quickly made up the stagger on the nearest runners, then maintained that gap on the back stretch. Coming around the final turn, she kicked it into gear and built her speed faster and faster down the home stretch. She crossed the finish line in third place to earn the bronze medal! She and the other two medalists were thrown country flags, and they had the opportunity to celebrate with their countries! Of course, we were shouting and celebrating with her!
“Only then did we all look at the final results posted on the stadium’s big screens, and realize Grace had taken the bronze medal AND set a New American Record at the same time!
“Since this past October, Grace has taken a full 2 seconds off her time in her 400! She’s feeling that the ‘Triathlon Warm-Up’ worked WELL for the 400! She may have to challenge some of her Cedarville teammates to try it!
“The Medal Ceremony was remarkable as she was presented with her second medal of the Paralympic Games, and she received a buddy for her Rio Tom stuffed animal from the triathlon!
“Rio has been Amazing, and Grace has definitely punctuated her statement she made last week on K-LOVE radio: ‘With God I can do amazing things!’”
(Robin said the family planned to tour the Christ the Redeemer statue on Tuesday, then they planned on “enjoying the beach with a Brazilian milkshake” before flying home to Jamestown.)