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Athlete extraordinaire


Athlete extraordinaire

A Sunshine Coast schoolgirl is racing towards fulfilling her dream of becoming an Australian Paralympian. WORDS: Caitlin Zerafa.

Grace Brimelow has been working hard to harbour a dream she first had as a 13-year-old: to one day go to the Paralympics.

The now 17-year-old aspiring para triathlete can almost reach that dream after recently racing in Spain.

The World Cup race was her final opportunity to accumulate points to go towards her ranking that decides who will make the team for Paris 2024.

Flashback to September 2022 and Grace was starting to make a real name for herself, being selected to participate in a national para-development camp for triathlon. Now, after years of hard work and dedication to her training and racing, Grace sits third in the Australian rankings.

The Sunshine Coast Grammar School student was born with Cri Du Chat syndrome (a rare genetic disorder caused by missing pieces on a particular chromosome), which impacts her physical capacity and strength.

Grace placed first in her race in Vigo, Spain, backing up wins in World Cup and series races in Australia at Stockton and Devonport earlier this year.

Also a decorated swimmer, Grace had to choose between the pool and triathlon as qualifications for Paris were nearing.

Grace chose triathlon.

“I love that it has three activities in one sport, which is pretty cool,” she says.

Grace’s mother Simone Pearce tells My Weekly Preview that her daughter has now done all she can.

“All the athletes are able to use their best-three results for the year to accumulate points to rank them,” she says.

“For Australia’s purposes, if you are in the top five in the world, you automatically qualify to go to the Paralympics.

“Grace went to race in Spain with a plan to try and get some points to try and get up in the ranking. She’s got three from three, which is pretty good, and that last race currently puts her ranked No.3 in the Paralympic ranking. There are two races left in June that could change the result, depending on how the other athletes go, but she should stay in that top five or seven.

“We are hoping that she’s done enough to get picked.”

Ms Pearce says athletes who rank between sixth and ninth can still be chosen to compete at the Games, via discretionary selection.

This was also Grace’s first season racing after being reclassified to the PTS4 class for para triathlon. She is also one of the youngest triathletes currently racing.

“She was unable to race from July last year to a day before her race in Stockton in February when she was reclassified,” Ms Pearce says. “Grace’s disability is not one you can see. She’s a bit of a mystery box. She’s in PTS4 and she’s doing well in it.”

Ms Pearce says the plan now is for Grace to put her head down and train as if she is going to Paris. Grace says it would be a dream come true to be selected.

“It would be (so) incredible and I would love to experience what it’s like,” she says.

“I’ve always had this goal in mind when I wanted to go somewhere with my sport.

“So, that pathway that has led me, hopefully, to Paris. I would look back on my journey and think all of this hard work has paid off.”

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