Kendall Gretsch became just the fifth American – and third U.S. woman – to claim gold medals at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games when she won the women’s PTWC race in thrilling fashion Sunday morning in Tokyo.
The 29-year-old Paralympic triathlete beat reigning world champion Lauren Parker at the line, in a time of 1:06:25 to the Australian’s 1:06:26, at her first Summer Paralympics.
Gretsch was sixth after the swim, 3 minutes and 29 seconds back from Parker, but quickly moved up to second on the bike and slowly made up ground the remainder of the race. Still 25 seconds back with the final kilometer of the run remaining, it appeared she would run out of course.
Once Parker was within sight, Gretsch made an exhilarating sprint to the finish and edged Parker at the tape.
Gretsch first made history in her Paralympic debut just three years ago when she won the 6km biathlon race at the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, marking the first women’s biathlon medal for the United States at the either the Olympics or Paralympics.
She discovered her primary sport, paratriathlon, during her sophomore year at Washington University. In her first season as an elite competitor, she won the PT1 world title, her first of three straight from 2014-2016.
Triathlon made its Paralympic debut in 2016, but Gretsch’s wheelchair classification was not chosen for the program, so, still determined to compete at the Paralympics, she took up Nordic skiing in 2015.
The Downers Grove, Illinois, native made the national team the following season, then won Paralympic golds in both biathlon and cross-country skiing (12km sitting) in Korea. The next year, Gretsch went six for six at the world championships, earning a gold, four silver and a bronze.
She maintained her triathlon training throughout, taking silver in the PTWC event at the 2019 World Championships for that sport.
Gretsch now joins Alana Nichols (2008 wheelchair basketball, 2010 alpine skiing) and Allison Jones (2006 alpine skiing, 2012 cycling) as the only American women to win gold at both summer and winter Paralympics. Jim Martinson (1980/1984 track and field, 1992 alpine skiing) and David Kiley (1976 track and field, 1976 wheelchair basketball, 1988 wheelchair basketball, 1992 alpine skiing) are the only U.S. men to achieve the feat.
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