One Year Later: Q&A with the First-Ever U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team

By Cassandra Johnson | Sept. 08, 2017, 7:46 p.m. (ET)

One year ago, the U.S Paralympic Triathlon Team kicked off triathlon’s Paralympic Games debut with gold, silver and bronze as Grace Norman claimed the first-ever gold medal in the women's PT4 sport class and Allysa Seely led Hailey Danz (formerly Danisewicz) and Melissa Stockwell in a PT2 sweep. We caught up with the inaugural team to hear how competing in Rio impacted their lives and what their day-to-day is like now.  

u.s. paralympic triathlon team

USA Triathlon: You made history competing in triathlon’s Paralympic Games debut. What does that mean to you?

Melissa Stockwell: It means everything. It was Sept. 11, a USA sweep, a bronze medal and hearing our nation’s national anthem. A day that will go down in history as one of my most memorable and meaningful days ever!

Mark Barr: It’s a huge honor to have competed at paratriathlon's debut because for years paratriathletes raced at high levels internationally but were not afforded the opportunity to represent their country on the world’s greatest stage, the Paralympic Games. 

Allysa Seely: Being a part of Team USA for the first Paralympic triathlon was historic in so many ways. Being able to compete in a Games is special, but being the first is incredible. It has given me the opportunity watch as the sport grows in size and inclusiveness. I hope many years from now I can reflect on where the sport began and how far it has come. 

Grace Norman: Making history in the triathlon at the Rio Games was incredible! It makes me feel very honored to have done this but it also shows that I couldn't have done this alone. My coach, teammates, family, and most importantly God, were huge parts of the medal and performance in Rio. 

Krige Schabort: A dream came true — in the year 2000 I watched the Sydney Olympic triathlon debut and my dream was to one day compete at the first ever Paralympic triathlon. I never thought 16 years later it would happen, and it made me realize, never stop dreaming because dreams come true.

Patty Collins: The entire experience was indescribable and something I will carry with me always. While an honor to be the captain for the first paratriathlon team to compete at the Paralympics, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. I have to be an advocate and mentor for the athletes in the next quad and growing the sport. I think we all realize we had an amazing opportunity and had so much support from so many people and organizations who will never be recognized or receive the accolades we did. We also were met with some challenges along the way because it was the first year. We can help remove those barrier for future teams. It’s important to help pave the way for the next class and welcome them to the paratriathlon family.  

Hailey Danz: Being a part of the first Paralympic triathlon team is an honor that will stay with me forever. I take so much pride in being a paratriathlete and believe this sport is going to be a driving force behind the Paralympic movement. To be able to call myself one of the pioneers in the sport that I love so much, to think that the next generation of paratriathletes will look to me and my teammates as the ones who set the bar — that's a pretty amazing feeling. 

Liz Baker: It was an honor to represent the USA for the debut of triathlon in the Paralympic Games. Not only was it amazing to be part of the race, but the individuals who made up our team made the experience that much more special. The athletes, the coaches and all of the support staff became like a family to me.

Chris Hammer: Honestly, I never really stopped to give it much thought. It's always an honor to represent your country, and that is only amplified when you're competing at the biggest stage, but I haven't really considered what being part of the triathlon's Paralympic Games debut means. I just hope that the sport is better off because of my involvement in it, and I hope that it continues to grow.

u.s. paralympic triathlon team

USAT: What’s changed since the Games?

Stockwell: I had another baby! So, a big change and a little crazy to think that I competed in Rio and had a baby girl, Millie Lynn, 11 months later. I did not compete or race this year with the pregnancy and am anxiously waiting for the ok to get back to swimming, biking and running! I am thrilled to be part of the post-Rio baby boom of #tribabies.

Barr: Not a whole lot has changed since the Games. I continue to balance a full-time job working in the trauma ICU with my racing and training schedule. In one week, I will race at World Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and look forward to a chance of redemption after coming up short of the podium in Rio last year.

Seely: Since the Games last summer I relocated to Colorado to train with a new coach. I have been able to spend my free time settling into my new home, traveling and telling my story to encourage others to enjoy the outdoors and get active. 

Norman: What has changed? I am now running varsity cross country for Cedarville University. 

Schabort: My life has not changed much because I want to live life at the fullest all the time, but there is a time for everything. Sport has become a lifestyle for me and I will forever enjoy and be thankful for the opportunities it gave me.  As I am slowing down it will give me immense pleasure to see the young generation live life at best and make use of the opportunities out there. Triathlon is a great option!

Collins: Full-time employment. I am a principal consultant with the McChrystal Group, which I really enjoy. I'm also coaching triathlon with Team Multi-sport Performance Institute, and a mom to a pretty busy 10 year old. My training time has been limited to early mornings or late nights and lots of times there are simply not enough hours in the day. I'm still racing the ITU circuit, although dipping my feet back into my age-group ranks and will be racing IRONMAN Arizona in November. I can't say whether Tokyo is or isn't on my radar, but I'm taking it season by season.  

Danz: Honestly, not too much has changed since Rio. I'm still training full time and competing on the WPS circuit. I moved a couple times, started working with a new coach, and have started coaching/training other athletes myself — but other than that, my day-to-day is pretty much the same. I'm just as passionate about triathlon as I was before the Games, and just as driven to become the best athlete I can possibly be. If anything, my Paralympic experience made me even more hungry to maximize my potential.

Baker: I cannot believe it's already been a year since Rio! I'm still training hard and racing, but I've really enjoyed it more because it's been a little more relaxed in terms of mental intensity. Preparing for Rio took so much of my focus last year, so it's been nice to spend more time with my family and friends, including a trip to Disney with my kids, who are growing up too fast!

Hammer: The biggest change is that my wife and I added another member to our family. Brooklyn was born Aug. 3 this year and we have a 2.5-year-old who is crazy. And then on top of that I am working on finishing up my dissertation to earn my Ph.D. in sport psychology from the University of Utah. And then, of course, I am trying to stay in decent shape. So, I have been keeping busy.

Relive the excitement of the Games at usatriathlon.org/rio2016.