Grace Norman took a huge step toward earning a spot on Team USA for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
She provisionally earned herself a spot in the women’s PT4-class (below knee amputee) race by finishing second and earning a silver medal in Saturday’s International Triathlon Union-sanctioned World Paratriathlon event in Rio de Janeiro, the very same course where the 2016 Paralympic Games will be held.
“The experience was amazing!” Norman said. “I really enjoyed Rio and the culture there. And it was the first time that the Elite U.S. Women and U.S. Men’s teams were competing at the same race, so it was nice to have the opportunity to cheer each other on. We were all after the same thing: The chance to represent our country in Rio in 2016.”
Robin Norman, Grace’s mom and the Xenia Christian High School cross country and track & field coach of which Grace is a member, said her daughter’s second-place finish was a surprise to the favored team from Great Britain.
“At the end of the race, Lauren Steadman congratulated her and let her know that (Saturday) was the first time her teammate Faye McClelland had ever been beat,” Robin said.
Norman finished the course in one hour, nine minutes and 45 seconds, just 59 seconds behind Steadman. McClelland placed third, two minutes later.
“As for the race, Grace had a good swim with a few problems. Her nose is still sore from a kick to the face. Then she had her goggles knocked off twice and had to put them back on while swimming. Then both transitions were smooth. She put down her best bike time of 35:33, and followed this up with the fastest female run time of the day at a 20:17. She was over a minute faster than any of the other women in her race. She is a bit sore but extremely pleased with the results,” Robin Norman said.
According to Ashley Schrader of the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club, which Norman is a member, Norman’s second-place finish earned her a provisional qualifying spot on the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team. Norman and fellow U.S. team member Hailey Danisewicz each earned provisionals by finishing within the top one-third of the race starters in their respective sport class and finishing within five percent of the winning time.
Six Dare2Tri athletes earned provisionals.
Pending the availability of National Federation quota spots, Norman’s place on the U.S. Team will be made official after the Sept. 18 World Championships, in Chicago, and after the runner rankings as of June 30, 2016 are posted.
Schrader says the team will be confirmed shortly after that June 30 ranking comes out.
According to the latest ITU Paratriathlon points rankings for women in the PT 4 class, Norman is the highest ranked American competitor. She’s currently ranked sixth in the world. Britons Steadman and McClelland are ranked first and second respectively. Thirty one women are ranked in the world rankings, and six of them are Americans.
Norman will race in the ITU Detroit Paratriathlon, an event where Britain’s Claire Cunningham the world’s third-ranked PT4 competitor will compete, on Aug. 15. The Xenia Christian student-athlete then plans on participating in the Great Buckeye Challenge triathlon at Buck Creek in Springfield on Aug. 30, before competing in the Sept. 18 World Championships in Chicago.
This week, Norman will enjoy some slower pursuits. A 4-H member since third grade, Norman will be showing hogs, goats and participating in the Open Modeling competition at the Greene County Fair.
Reach John Bombatch at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2124.