GREENE COUNTY — It’s roughly a year and two weeks until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics get underway, but several of the world’s top athletes, including Cedarville University distance runner and defending gold medal winning paratriathlete Grace Norman, are in Tokyo this week to prepare for a test run of the planned triathlon and paratriathlon courses.
Norman and the rest of Team USA arrived in Tokyo on Aug. 10. The test races aren’t scheduled until Aug. 17, but the team arrived early in order to get acclimated to the time zone (they’re 13 hours ahead of Eastern time) and the heat index which has climbed above 105 F. in recent days.
According to Grace’s mother, Legacy Christian track coach Robin Norman, the number of categories to be contested for the 2020 Games has increased from six categories at the Rio de Janeiro Games to eight categories this time. NOrman won the event’s gold medal at the Rio Paralympics.
The women will compete in PTS5 (Norman’s category), as well as PTS2, blind, and wheelchair athletes.
According to Robin, as the only below-knee amputee in the PTS5 class Grace is in exclusive company.
“Grace is the only leg amputee in the world who will race this test event,” Robin Norman said. “All other athletes in the PTS5 category are lower-arm amputees. PTS4 is the below-knee amputee group, but Grace is categorized in the higher class which is more of a challenge for her. She loves the competition!”
Due to a unique formula used to determine Paralympic qualifiers, Norman is presently ranked No. 1 in the latest women’s PTS5 world rankings, but is currently ranked No. 4 in the Paralympic qualification rankings. She remains the highest ranking American woman in both classes, however.
“So far, the top three women in her category have all won at least once, so this test race should have a very competitive field,” Robin Norman said.
The test event is an opportunity for the athletes to get accustomed to the nuances of the course layout. It’s also a chance for the Olympic and Paralympic organizers to see if there are any adjustments to the course that will need to be made prior to the 2020 Games, which are scheduled to begin on Aug. 25, 2020.
The test race’s results will also determine how many athletes each country can send to the 2020 Games.
Norman’s top rivals — world No. 2 Clair Cashmore of Great Britain, world No. 3 Gwladys Lemoussu of France, former No. 1 Lauren Steadman of Great Britain, and current Paralympic No. 1 qualifier Kamylle Frenette of Canada — will all be on hand for the race.
Robin Norman said she will fly out to Tokyo soon, to accompany her daughter for the event. According to Robin, local fans can catch the race online. The Tokyo test race will be broadcast on triathlonlive.tv at approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16.
For a complete listing of the PTS5 women’s world paratriathlon rankings, go to triathlon.org/rankings/paratriathlon/female/pts5 . John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.