Q&A: U.S. Paralympic Women’s Triathlon Team

By Cassandra Johnson | Sept. 09, 2016, 1:50 p.m. (ET)

Grace Norman

The seven women on the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team have accomplished much in their lives, in sport, as well as professionally and personally. From serving in the U.S. Army and becoming parents, to Paralympic berths and world records in other sports, to crossing the line at IRONMAN races and more, these women represent the best of the best in paratriathlon in the United States. Learn more about them here.

USA Triathlon: What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Paralympic Games?
Melissa Stockwell:
It is a juggling act. Being a parent and a full-time athlete can be tough, and I couldn't do it on my own. I'm lucky to have great support from my husband, nanny and friends in the area.

For triathlon, I also train and practice for transitions and taking my prosthetic legs on and off as quick as I can. You can win or lose a race that way.

USAT: What are your first memories of the Olympic Games?
Hailey Danisewicz:
I remember watching the Winter Olympics as a 7-year-old in 1998. My first memory of seeing the Paralympics was in the summer of 2004 when, ironically, I was in the hospital recovering from my most recent surgery on my leg. At the time, the thought of one day being in that position did not even occur to me.

USAT: How do you unwind after competition?
Allysa Seely:
After a competition I unwind by going for a stroll or an easy run with no technology of any sort — not even a watch — and then stop for some ice cream or frozen yogurt before making my way back.

USAT: How does your son view your training?
Patricia Collins:
My son (Gabe, 9) sees how committed I am and he sees me chasing some big dreams. I want him to see that hard work can pay off over time. Sometimes he will ride his bike along when I run. He will also ride my tandem to help me train, but that usually ends at the playground or ice cream parlor.

USAT: What did you like best about traveling to Rio for the test event?
Grace Norman:
I really love to travel! I loved Rio de Janeiro. It is so beautiful and the weather is amazing. Also, all the people were extremely friendly.

USAT: When did you get your start in the sport?
Elizabeth Baker:
I have really just started in triathlon after I turned 40. I had always had a goal of completing an IRONMAN before I was 41 but was not sure how I would manage the bike portion of the race with limited vision. IRONMAN Chattanooga is where my journey in paratriathlon started.

USAT: Any nicknames?
HD:
Hailstorm. It actually stared when I was a kid... my best friend's dad called me that. But for some reason, it made a resurgence in my adult life, a couple people clung on to it, and now it's stuck. I love what the nickname conveys; intensity, intimidation, general hardcoredness. But I also like the deeper meaning behind it.

Patricia CollinsUSAT: What does a perfect day off look like for you?
MS:
Spending time with my husband and son. Walking around the neighborhood, getting coffee, running by the lake, taking our son to the park, playing with the dog, going to the zoo, that kind of thing.

USAT: Do you have a lucky charm you can’t train or compete without?
AS:
I travel with a red fleece jacket I got from my grandmother. It is warm, comfy and reminds me of her. I sleep in it, or with it next to me if it is too hot, on nights before big races.

USAT: What’s something people may not know about you?
PC:
I have over 100 parachute jumps from an airplane, and two of them after I lost my leg.

USAT: What does a typical training day look like for you?
GN:
Wake up at 7 a.m. Go to school. First workout from 3:30-5 p.m. Next workout from 7-9 p.m. Possible strength workout from 5-5:40 p.m.

USAT: Where do you keep your medals?
EB:
I keep the ITU medals I've won in a small hallway in my bedroom on a mount that my sister-in-law gave to me after I earned my provisional slot to Rio. The wooden plaque that holds them says: "She believed she could, so she did."

USAT: Who inspires you?
MS:
Any athletes that we serve in our Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Sounds cheesy, but these youth and adult athletes come to us thinking that can never do a triathlon as someone with an amputation, in a wheelchair or another sort of physical disability. To give them what they need to start and then finish the race is incredibly powerful.

USAT: Where is the most special place you’ve traveled to?
HD:
New Zealand. It was my first Paratriathlon World Championship back in 2012, which will always have a special place in my heart. But beyond the athletic significance, it was the coolest country I have ever been to with the nicest people around.

USAT: Do you have a personal motto?
AS:
‘It is not about the medals. It is all about the miles.’ I feel like it says it all. I am not here and I do not do what I do for a medal. It is for the personal growth, the experiences and all the amazing memories along the way. But a little gold never hurts either.

USAT: What’s your earliest memory of triathlon?
PC
: Easy: I remember the Julie Moss crawl in the Hawaii IRONMAN in 1982. I completed my first triathlon in 1989 and really never stopped.

USAT: Who’s your greatest influence within the sport?
GN:
My greatest influence in the sport of triathlon is Gwen Jorgensen. She is an amazing athlete that pushes through her races. Not only is she an amazing athlete, but she is extremely encouraging and very kind and supportive to other athletes.

USAT: Do you collect anything?
EB:
My kids' art and writing.

Find more coverage on the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games at usatriathlon.org/rio2016.