Grace Norman: A Recap and Thank You
In August of this year, Optimus patient Grace Norman became a source of inspiration as she demonstrated grit and strength by finishing with a silver medal in the triathlon at the Tokyo Paralympic games. Although there were many setbacks throughout the last year and a half, Grace persevered. After the summer Olympic games were postponed because of COVID-19, Norman was forced to wait an additional year for her chance to race again at the Paralympics. However, the grit necessary to continue with training and preparation only added to the inspiration the world felt as we watched her cross the finish line in Tokyo to claim silver, her 3rd Paralympic medal.
Upon leaving Tokyo, Norman was welcomed home by many family members and friends. Topping off the high of an incredible race in Tokyo, amidst the twinkling lights of downtown Cincinnati, Norman’s boyfriend Evan Taylor proposed to Grace in early September. Grace’s return home, although filled with excitement, was brief. Triathlon racing was not yet over for Grace. One more race awaited.
While attending Cedarville University, Norman had been registered for the 2020 Collegiate Club National Championship. Due to the pandemic, the race was rescheduled multiple times until it was finally decided that the race would be held in Malibu, California, in September of 2021. The USA Triathlon decided that anyone who had been registered for the race in 2020 would be allowed to race regardless of whether they had graduated the previous year. Norman took the opportunity to don the Cedarville University uniform one last time, and her performance did not disappoint. Her mom had this to say about watching her compete:
“It was truly exciting to see her toe the line with 200 college women, all able-bodied. The swim portion started on the beach as a "run in" start. Grace used her dad's shoulder to hop into the waves as quickly as she could. Then in the water, Grace made up incredible time as she passed many girls and finished the swim in the 13th position. A quick transition later, she was on the bike for 24 miles and maintained an average speed of 22 mph. She moved herself into 6th position by the middle of the bike and maintained this into the run. She said that she was tired and the 10K run was double what she is used to running, but she used the distance to catch her competitors! Approaching the finish line, she passed one more girl and thought she was moving into 4th place. However, she took 3rd overall and captured the bronze medal for the Women's Collegiate National Championships! What a race it was! What an accomplishment it is for the end of her college career!”
It was a full-circle moment for Norman. She had previously finished her high school career as the first amputee in the US to podium at a State Track Championship, and now she was wrapping up her college career by being the first and only amputee to finish on the podium for Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships!
Norman has since moved on to new beginnings in Florida. All of us in Ohio are sad to see her go, but we owe her much gratitude for the encouragement and inspiration her perseverance has given each of us. Her journey has been amazing to watch, and many of us have felt empowered to overcome obstacles in our own lives as we watched her cross finish lines and achieve goals that appeared impossible.