Grace Norman became the International Triathlon Union’s World Champion, and earned the no. 1 ranking in the world to go along with it, after Sunday’s convincing win in the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The Xenia Christian High School graduate and future Cedarville University Yellow Jacket came out of the 750-meter swimming portion of the triathlon just nine seconds behind defending world champ Lauren Steadman of Great Britain. Steadman then gained another 16 seconds on Norman during the swim-to-bike transition, but the Briton crashed during the bicycle portion of the event and was unable to continue.
Norman turned in the fastest 20-kilometer time on the bike (36 minutes, four seconds), was fifth quickest in the final bike-to-running transition, then was more than a minute quicker than the rest of the 11-person field (19:08) in the 5-K run. With that combined effort of 1:10.02, Norman finished almost four minutes in front of runner-up Gwladys Lemoussu of France (1:14.31).
Anna Bychkova of Russia finished third in 1:16.42.
“It’s amazing, I’m (beyond) excited, I’ve never won before,” Norman told Megan Mindel of the International Paralympic Committee. “To take one for America, I’m so honored to represent my country. The crowd was great, very encouraging and every time you went by (them, I) thought ‘Yeah, OK, I can do this.’”
With her win and Steadman’s DNF, Norman now ranks as the no. 1 woman in the PT4 (mild impairment sport) category with 1,797.50 points in ITU-sanctioned international events. Great Britain’s Steadman, after having lost her first paratriathlon event since 2014, fell to second in the world rankings, followed by Lemoussu of France, Great Britain’s Faye McClelland and Bychkova of Russia.
“Atop the podium, no one could be prouder to hear the Star Spangled Banner play as Grace Norman was awarded the gold medal and is the new World Champion for the paralympic women’s PT4 class in the triathlon,” Norman’s mother, Robin Norman, said by email.
Norman was one of four U.S. Paratriathlon world champions who were crowned on Sunday. Kendell Gritsch (women’s PT 1 category) of Madison, Wis., Alyssa Seely (women’s PT2) of Glendale, Ariz., and Aaron Scheidies (men’s PT 5) of Seattle, also came home with gold medals.
The American Paratriathlon team took home seven medals (four gold, two silver and one bronze), more than any other country. Spain was next with five medals, and France finished with four.
Grace Norman now plans on competing locally — in several 4-H related animal showcase events at the Greene County Fair — next week. She will then join her U.S. Paralympic teammates for a short training camp prior to the Summer Paralympic Games, which will be held Sept. 7-18 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.