By John Bombatch
CEDARVILLE — With golden balloons upon their wrists, several hundred Cedarville University students filled the Callan Athletic Center basketball court to welcome Paralympic medalist Grace Norman and her parents, Tim and Robin, home from the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Norman hasn’t been a student at Cedarville for very long. She barely began her freshman year at the school when she joined two U.S. Paralympic teams — the triathlon team, and the track & field team — in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Games.
Norman became the first woman to win the inaugural PT-4 triathlon gold medal on Sunday. She told the crowd it was ” like icing on icing on the cake” when she then set a new American record and earned a bronze medal in the women’s T43/44 400-meter run the following day. She said the homecoming welcome by her peers was a nice surprise.
“I was not expecting a police escort or a homecoming like this at all,” she told a group of assembled media. “We drove up to a gas station and there were a couple policemen there, and they said ‘We were waiting for you.’ And I asked my dad, “Dad, what’d you do?’
“To come back and have everyone so excited. It means so much to me. People told me that I would bring home gold. I didn’t really believe it until about a week before the Games. I’m really glad I brought home gold,” she said.
Sen. Bob Hackett read a proclamation from the Ohio Senate honoring Norman, and Cedarville University president Dr. Thomas White had a few congratulatory words to say to Grace. Then Cedarville’s mayor had some kind words to say as well:
“You’re from Jamestown, but you didn’t go to Greeneview High, so you’re all right by me,” Mayor Robert Fudge said, drawing a few laughs. Nearby Cedarville High is a conference rival of Greeneview, which is located in Norman’s hometown of Jamestown.
Norman competed on the Xenia Christian High School cross country, swimming, and track & field teams. She was the first amputee to qualify and finish on the awards podium at the state high school track and field championships. She was the first female amputee to compete in the OHSAA state cross country championships as well.
She’s currently the no. 1-ranked women’s PT-4 triathlete in the world and holds several national records in track & field. But she never expected to have a day named after her!
Fudge proclaimed Sept. 24, 2016 as Grace Norman Day.
“I was not expecting that at all!” Norman said. “I’m very honored. I’m just a normal college student, and to have a day named after me … it’s just an honor.”
Norman plans on taking a couple weeks off, but said her goal is to compete in “at least four or five more Paralympics in the years ahead. We’ll see what God has in store for my future, but that is definitely a goal for me,” she said.
The 2020 games are scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan.
While she’s still in top shape, Norman may compete in this weekend’s Friendship Invitational cross country meet, which will be hosted Saturday morning at Cedarville University.
Due to her training for the Paralympic Games, Norman opted to red-shirt out of competing with the Yellow Jackets cross country team this season. However, she can still compete in the event as long as she runs as an unattached (or independent) runner.
Reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.