TOKYO — Two-time Paralympian Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio) earned the second Paralympic medal of her career when she finished second in the women’s PTS5 on Sunday morning in Tokyo.
The top two spots of the women’s PTS5 podium saw a reversal of the women’s PT4 results from the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, where the sport made its Paralympic debut. Norman won gold in Rio, with Australia’s Lauren Steadman taking the silver.
This time, Steadman won the race in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 46 seconds, with Norman getting the silver in 1:05:27. Claire Cashmore of Great Britain was third in 1:07:36. Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas) placed seventh in a time of 1:17:28 at her Paralympic debut.
“I made a lot of sacrifices and a lot of changes in my life to get here, and I’m just so, so happy about it,” Norman said.
Minutes earlier, Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V.) finished fourth in the men’s PTS5.
The PTS5 races closed out the eight paratriathlon events that were held over two days at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The United States, entering athletes in seven of the races, led the paratriathlon medal count with five total medals; Spain followed with four, while Great Britain had three.
The U.S. team also earned the most gold medals with three; no other nation had more than one. The golds were won by Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.) in women’s PTWC, Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz.) in women’s PTS2 and Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.), with guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), in men’s PTVI, while Hailey Danz (Colorado Springs, Colo.) in women’s PTS2 and Norman in women’s PTS5 secured silvers. Danz, Norman and Seely earned the second Paralympic triathlon medals of their career, while Gretsch (Nordic skiing) and Snyder’s (swimming) were their first in the sport after winning gold at previous Paralympic Games in other sports. Snyder’s was also the first Paralympic triathlon medal by an American man, and first individual U.S. men’s medal at an Olympic or Paralympic Games.
The 17 athletes of the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team were seen and heard cheering for both their teammates and competitors throughout the weekend, making it clear this group was something special, which was echoed by the triathletes themselves.
“Our team is everything,” Gretsch said after her race, in tears. “It is such a special group of people. We push each other every single day. I train with them every single day. This was not an individual effort, that is something that our entire team has worked for, and it’s so special to be part of Team USA.”
As Norman took to the water for the last race at the Odaiba Marine Park, she tore through the 750-kilometer swim to a 43-second lead over the trio of Cashmore, Canada’s Kamylle Frenette and Steadman.
The 23-year-old held on to her lead through the first half of the four-lap, 20-kilometer run but was then caught by Steadman, a four-time Paralympian who competed in swimming at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Cashmore was a minute back from Norman, who then knew she was guaranteed a medal.
With a strong running technique — she earned bronze in the 400-meter T44 at the 2016 Paralympic Games — Norman has been able to keep up with Steadman in the past, but it didn’t play out as she hoped in the four-lap, 5-kilometer run this time and the Australian’s lead continued to grow from there.
“Obviously, I was trying to catch,” Norman said. “In the first two laps I didn’t want to overheat, so I didn’t want to go out hot, but that may have been an oversight by me. I probably could have picked it up a little bit, but my legs felt good. I was really taking it in, enjoying it, gaining from the fans cheering. It was hard to see me not closing on Steadman like I normally have, but she had the run of her life and that was cool to see, too.”
Norman’s resume now includes three Paralympic medals, a track and field bronze medal from the 2015 World Athletics Championships, five World Triathlon Paratriathlon Championship medals (2017 PTS5 gold, 2016 PT4 gold, 2015 PT4 silver, 2018 PTS5 bronze, 2019 PTS5 bronze) and 10 World Paratriathlon Event medals.
“The final lap, I knew where I was as far as I knew I wasn’t going to get past Steadman and I couldn’t make it to first, so I was just so, so happy, taking it in, holding back tears because this has been a journey to get here,” she said.
Elmlinger was ninth in the swim, but managed to pass Anna Bychkova of the Russian Paralympic Committee and Japan’s Mami Tani to moved up to seventh on the bike and remained there through the finish.
“My goal was to make it to Paris, so to be able to come in and have this type of experience and three years away be able to contest for a spot in the Paris 2024 Games is a win,” Elmlinger, the 2019 world silver medalist in PTS4, said. “I don’t know how to set myself up any better than what I was able to do today. You gain so much, and I’m so very honored to be able to get here.”
The men’s PTS5 race was won by German Martin Schulz, who captured the inaugural PT4 Paralympic gold and three world titles in that category, in 58 minutes, 10 seconds. Great Britain’s George Peasgood earned silver in 58:55 after taking PTS5 bronze at both the 2013 and 2018 World Championships.
Three-time reigning PTS5 world champion Stefan Daniel of Canada settled for bronze in 59:22, five seconds ahead of Hammer.
Hammer, a 2012 Paralympian in track and field, was also fourth in the PT4 in Rio, missing that podium by 29 seconds.
“It’s hard because I did everything I could,” Hammer said. “My family and I made the sacrifices to get out to Colorado Springs for a chunk of time before this, so I did everything I could. The competition is just amazing, and that’s the closest I’ve ever been.”
The 35-year-old was sixth heading into the run and managed to make up ground, passing Brazil’s Carlos Rafael Viana and Ronan Cordeiro for fourth midway through the bike. He continued to reach closer and closer to the top three during the run — trailing Daniel by 58 seconds at the start — but ran out of course.
“My classification especially, these guys could race at the elite [Olympic] level I’m sure,” Hammer, a three-time World Paratriathlon Championships bronze medalist and 12-time World Paratriathlon Event medalist, said. “They’re just incredible. It’s awesome to be a part of it, and two fourth-places in two Paralympics isn’t anything to sneeze at.”
Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Women’s PTS5 — Complete Results
1. Lauren Steadman (AUS), 1:04:46
2. Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), 1:05:27
3. Claire Cashmore (GBR), 1:07:36
2. Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), 1:05:27
7. Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas), 1:17:28
Men’s PTS5 — Complete Results
1. Martin Schulz (GER), 58:10
2. George Peasgood (GBR), 58:55
3. Stefan Daniel (CAN), 59:22
4. Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V.), 59:28
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon, paratriathlon, and indoor and virtual multisport events in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,000 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).