ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands — She won the Paralympic gold medal almost exactly year ago, now she’s a World Champion, too.
Grace Norman, of Jamestown, battled back from a 43-second deficit to win the ITU World Paratriathlon Grand Final, on the morning of Sept. 15, in the women’s PTS5 division.
The Cedarville University student led former world No. 1 Lauren Steadman of Great Britain by 2 seconds after the 750-meter swim portion of the paratriathlon with a time of 11 minutes, 44 seconds, but fellow Brit Claire Cashmore pulled away with a quicker transition period as the race headed into the four-lap 19.4-kilometer bicycling stage.
Cashmore and another competitor crashed during the bicycling portion of the race, putting both out of contention. Norman nearly was caught up in that accident, but continued on.
Norman, who has a prosthetic left leg from the knee down, battled back to within 5 seconds of Steadman’s time on the bikes with a time of 36:17 in the bike stage, but still had the earlier transition deficit to try to make up on the final run. Her transition from a bicycling prosthetic to her running leg put her 10 seconds further behind Steadman as the race headed to the final two-lap, 5-kilometer run to the finish.
But in the run, Norman caught Steadman to take the lead with roughly 400 meters to go in the race to capture the win.
The sophomore Yellow Jacket competes against able-bodied student athletes on the Cedarville University women’s cross country team, as well as the women’s track & field team.
“I was trying to catch (Steadman) the first lap. Um, that didn’t happen,” Norman told a race official after the race. “My legs were a little bit more tired than I expected them to be. But yeah, just keeping a positive mindset and just keeping her in view was my goal. Just tracking her down, it was really good.”
Norman won in an overall time of 1:09.49, followed by Steadman (1:09.53), with France’s Gwladys Lemoussu earning the bronze medal with a third-place time of 1:12.19.
“Grace had a great race today and kept a completely cool head in dealing with some significant time deficits to make up!” said her dad, Timothy Norman by email. Timothy competes in triathlons as well. “It is a very long run from the swim outlet to transition 1, which put Grace at about a 40-50 second deficit going into the bike portion. She avoided a crash between two other girls and made up some significant time throughout the bike portion while maintaining second position! But then lost more time in transition 2 due to having to change prosthetics.
“Then Grace hit the run course with a significant deficit from Transition 2 to Lauren Steadman. However, she made up 30 seconds on the first run lap. She still had a 16-second deficit to catch her, and DID in the last 400 meters!! A fantastic sprint finish by Grace as she finished in Gold Medal position just 4 seconds in front of Lauren Steadman! Grace posted a shortened 5K run time of 18:13! She is excited but exhausted,” Timothy Norman said.
Norman became the first paralympian to win a gold medal in the paratriathlon during the 2016 Paralympic Games, which were held Sept. 7-16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A video of Norman’s world championship win, named “2017 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships” can be found on the rotterdam.triathlon.org website. Norman’s interview after the event can be found in the first three minutes of the video.
Compiled by John Bombatch. Complete results are available on the ITU World Triathlon Series.org website at: http://wts.triathlon.org/results/result/2017_itu_world_triathlon_grand_final_rotterdam/310525 .