Dozens of students, faculty members, family and friends gathered around Grace Norman outside the Callan Athletic Center at Cedarville University on Wednesday.
Norman hasn’t been at Cedarville long — she graduated from Xenia Christian in the spring — but she is already one of its most famous students. She wore gold and bronze medals from the Paralympic Games around her neck, and the gold matched the balloons everyone around her held. All at once, everyone released the balloons, which soared as high as Norman did last weekend in Rio de Janeiro.
Norman, who’s known as “Amazing Grace,” won gold Sunday in the triathlon and bronze Monday in the 400-meter run. The university celebrated her return from Brazil on Wednesday. During the ceremony, Cedarville Mayor Robert Fudge proclaimed it to be Grace Norman Day in Cedarville.
“I had a lot of good things happen during the games,” Norman told the crowd. “Pretty much all good things. A lot of the cross-country team wrote me letters. When I got to my hotel (in Rio), they were all spread over the bed, and then there were pictures from when I was a little kid and from throughout my athletic career. I cried. It meant so much to me that I had so many prayers surrounding me and people loving on me and supporting me.”
Grace’s father, Tim Norman, spoke at the ceremony and told the story of finding out Grace had been born with one foot.
“As young parents,” Norman said, “we both asked, ‘What does this mean? How could this be God’s plan? What’s in store for her?’”
Grace starred at Xenia Christian, and using the J-shaped, carbon fiber Cheetah prosthetic, became the first amputee to qualify for Ohio’s state state track and field meet. Her performance in Brazil took her story to a new level.
“Throughout Grace’s life,” Tim Norman said, “we’ve watched her overcome some of the issues, having to learn how to use a prosthetic, having to learn how to keep up with other kids in sports. … I don’t think it was until this event that we really started to see the full extent of what God has planned for Grace. I think she put it best when she said, ‘On my own, I can do nothing, but with God, I can do amazing things.’ ”