Big Changes After Tokyo Have Paratriathlete Grace Norman Reset And Ready For More

by Joanne C. Gerstner

Grace Norman cycles during the women's PTS5 triathlon at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Tokyo.


Two-time Paralympic triathlon medalist Grace Norman knows how to focus. Her attention to detail – from tough workouts and a precise diet to a 9 p.m. bedtime – helped her reach the top of the sport and stay there.


But something had to change after the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 when she won silver but didn’t feel entirely satisfied. She wanted to repeat as the gold medalist. She walked away wanting less burnout and more joy.


So, Norman and her coach charted a new path for 2022. Being looser.


Bedtimes now could be later. An occasional glass of wine was allowed without guilt. Norman would take on more responsibilities on the road. Her biggest life shift came on Aug. 21, when she married Evan Taylor in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


“This was my balance year. I wanted to explore different aspects of my life,” Norman, a resident of Bloomington, Indiana, said. “It has been a transformation in a lot of ways. I learned to let go a little and things were still OK.


“I always was so needing to be watching everything, but you can’t live like that, not long-term, anyways. I lived more this year, still very much focused on tri, but I also had the wedding, and our move to Indiana, in my mind.


“It’s all turned out really well, and it’s been a great year of growth for me. I’m really happy right now.”


Norman has won five out of the six PTS5 paratriathlons she’s entered this year and is now training for the world championships on Nov. 15 in Turkey.


She is ranked second in the world heading into the world championships. Norman finished second in the 2021 world championship, which took place two months after the Paralympics. But, said she’s a different person heading into this year’s race.


Norman has made some changes in her physique, which were initially motivated by the wedding and how she wanted to appear in the photos. Having lost 20 pounds, she was at the lowest weight she had been as a paratriathlete. It turned out the change had positive impacts on competing.

Grace Norman reacts as she crosses the finish line to win the silver medal during the women's PTS5 triathlon in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 29, 2021 in Tokyo.


She is running faster and feels lighter but needs to learn how to generate more force on the bike with lower pounds, she said. Norman asked her college track coach for advice on her running technique and has tweaked a few things, in addition to adding strength training.


With the wedding and a big move from Florida to Indiana now in the books, she’s enjoying her stress levels going down.


“I feel like I do have a different body. I’ve never been this lean before, in like almost nine, 10 years of being in tri,” Norman, 24, said. “I have had to get used to how things feel, how my body responds. I’m not starving or anything, just changed some things here and there. It’s a good body composition for me.”


The planning for the 2023 season is underway, with Norman looking at how to best use her new life skills for the run up to the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. Right now, the thought process is to go back to a little more strictness, but not as hardcore. Staying up a little later, a yummy treat or glass of wine will be allowed. However, they will be planned in advance.


She also wants to get a better leg prosthetic and a new bike and dial those in. The power ratios on the bike should also go up with the changes and improved technique.


“I think having a little more structure is needed, but it will be something I can live with. It’s about being thoughtful, mindful, but still being a person and working hard at tri,” Norman said. “There is a lot of room for growth. Going into Tokyo, I wanted to focus on my cycling, and I improved a lot. I still want to push that even more.


“This year has been about me exploring different things and I can say that it has been a really positive experience. I want to keep this all going.”

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes about sports regularly for the New York Times and other outlets. She has written for since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.