NewsKendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch Wins Gold At The Tape In Paratriathlon

by Todd Kortemeier

Kendall Gretsch competing during the swimming phase of the women's PTWC triathlon at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.


Kendall Gretsch didn’t even see Lauren Parker up there in first place of the women’s PTWC triathlon at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 until halfway through the final lap of the race. But once Gretsch saw her, she never let her out of her sight.
Gretsch caught the reigning world champion from Australia with just feet to go in a thrilling drag race to the finish line, breaking the tape and winning by one second with a time of 1:06:25. Gretsch came from 26 seconds down heading into the final lap, making up the deficit in the last three quarters of a mile of the 5-kilometer wheelchair race. It was the first Paralympic medal at the Summer Games for Gretsch, who owns two gold medals in Nordic skiing. 
“I knew it was going to be such a close race, so that finish is something I have been training for with my coach and my team this entire extra year,” Gretsch said afterward. “It's kind of special that it ended that way because that's exactly what we worked for. It was just incredible.”
The 29-year-old from Downers Grove, Illinois, was competing in her first Paralympic triathlon but is no stranger to the sport, having won three world championships. She’s competed in paratriathlon since 2014, when she won her first national championship. While she made her Paralympic debut in Nordic skiing to great success, she had long hoped to compete in paratriathlon at the Games.
“I think going into the 2018 Winter Games I was so new to the sport, I really was just going there for the experience,” she said. “There was no pressure on me. Triathlon was the sport I started in, and I have been looking forward to this day for nine years now. It is just so special.
“It's been a lot of hard work to get here.”
Gretsch’s was not the only U.S. medal on the day as 2016 Paralympic gold medalist Grace Norman took silver in the PTS5 race that concluded Tokyo paratriathlon. In a reversal from Rio, it was Lauren Steadman of Great Britain who held on to beat Norman by 41 seconds with a time of 1:04:46. Norman was anything but disappointed with the silver, crossing the finish line with a big smile behind her friend and rival.
“Getting here, coming across the finish line, I had a great race start to finish, no regrets, gave it all,” Norman said. “So proud of Lauren for coming in first, I’m just overjoyed, it was an incredible day.”

Grace Norman celebrates after winning silver in the women's PTS5 triathlon at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.


Team USA’s Kelly Elmlinger, classing up from her normal PTS4, finished in seventh in her Paralympic debut. The 42-year-old cited Gretsch’s achievement as a motivator for her and the rest of the team, along with some vocal support from some U.S. supporters in the stands.
“Kendall, for the photo finish, oh my gosh if that doesn’t get you going,” Elmlinger said. “She started our day. And not only started my day, my day started yesterday watching my teammates, and I am so proud of them. 
“… I’m classing up, so my road was hard from the jump. And I knew that two years ago. So making it here, that’s really my gold medal. So today was all about enjoying it.”
On the men’s side, three-time Paralympian Chris Hammer turned for home in PTS5 with Canada’s Stefan Daniel in sight in third place, but Hammer couldn’t run him down. He finished six seconds back of the podium, 1:18 off the winning time of 58:10 by now two-time gold medalist Martin Schulz of Germany.
“I just ran out of space on the run,” Hammer said. “… I have no regrets, I did everything I could.”
Along with the gold medals won by Brad Snyder and Allysa Seely, Team USA finishes its paratriathlon competition with three gold medals in Tokyo, one more than it won in Rio in the debut of paratriathlon at the Games. Hailey Danz also won a silver medal to bring Team USA’s total medal haul to five, also one more than five years ago. 
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table and results.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.