Beth Grauer competes in shot put at the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships. (Photo: Rick Stephens)
Beth Grauer first tried adaptive sports in 2016 at the Wounded Warrior Battalion while still in the Marine Corps. From the start, she has considered herself blessed by all of the great people she’s met.
“That’s what I love about Para sports,” Grauer said. “It’s a big family.”
Grauer has been a member of that family since retiring from the Marines in 2017 as a staff sergeant with the military police after 15 years in uniform. She has PTSD and traumatic brain injuries as a result of her service.
She initially began competing in shot put and javelin as an ambulatory athlete, but issues with her lower extremities forced her to switch to a seated division in May 2022.
“My balance was affected, and that’s why I went from ambulatory to seated,” Grauer said. “I’ve got some mobility issues, like with my knees and ankles. And I utilize a service dog for both mobility and PTSD.”
That service dog is an 8-year-old labrador/golden retriever mix named Cali. Grauer and Cali graduated from Next Step Service Dogs in 2016.
“She keeps me grounded, for sure,” said Grauer, adding that “Cali is very stubborn, so we butt heads quite a bit.”
Though seated now, Grauer hasn’t slowed down as a track athlete. At the Invictus Games this year in the Netherlands, the 39-year-old won the shot put while also participating in swimming. In November, she competed at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games 2022 in Portugal, where she was first in the javelin and third in the shot put.
Heading into 2023, Grauer reached new heights by making her first national team roster. But she isn't satisfied yet.
"The real goal is making the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
“I feel pretty good. I mean, I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I definitely feel good about it. I’m staying hungry.”
Grauer, from Palm Bay, Florida, applies the discipline she learned in the Marines to her new life as an athlete and college student. She traveled extensively during her service.
“I went (into the Marines) straight out of high school in 2002,” Grauer said. “I saw the world, for sure.”
Grauer deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2007.
“It was definitely a lot of work,” she said. “As far as being a female Marine, you always have to prove yourself and work harder than the male Marines. It was stressful, for sure. But it was a lot of fun, too.”
In the short term, Grauer said she’s working on a routine and rhythm to improve her javelin throw.
“(My) shot put is by far better than my javelin,” she said. “I don’t have the finesse and patience for the javelin like I do for the shot put. You don’t have to have finesse or patience with shot put, so there’s that.”
When she was growing up, Grauer played tennis and basketball, and also swam and did field events. On top of throwing, she’s been training to play goalie in sled hockey.
When not competing, Grauer is working to earn her degree in biomedical technology at Eastern Florida State College. She hopes to one day work with prosthetics.
“I’ve got quite a few friends (who) were injured overseas,” Grauer said. “With the Para sports you see all the little (children) and everything that they have available now because of the wars that we’ve been in. That’s pretty much the only good thing that’s ever come out of them.”
Grauer acknowledged that balancing school with training, traveling and competing can be difficult.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “That’s one thing that the military taught me is to be flexible, ‘Semper Gumby,’ as we say.”
When her competitive career is over, Grauer would like to help others.
“One thing I want to do once I learn the trade is to go to (developing) countries and help them out as far as prosthetics,” said Grauer, “because, as you know, they don’t have much.
“I love mentoring the younger generation. Any position I can do to mentor the next generation, definitely, I enjoy it.”