Kendall Gretsch: The surprise package

Paralympic champion ready to make mark on Worlds 07 Feb 2019
By Louise Wood | For World Para Nordic Skiing

US Nordic skier Kendall Gretsch sprang a massive surprise at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. She won the first race of the competition, the women's sitting biathlon sprint, after only taking up the sport two years previously.

It was not only her first win in Para Nordic skiing, but also the USA’s first biathlon gold medal at either the Olympics or Paralympics. She then followed it up with another gold medal in the cross-country 12km. It was an incredible effort for someone so new to the sport.

"I stared right around 2015/16 in cross-country and biathlon. I picked it up after triathlon decided the different classifications that were going to Rio and mine wasn't going so I wanted to find another sport where I would have the chance to go to the Paralympics," explained Gretsch.

Tough transition

It may have been a great decision for her, but it was by no means an easy transition for the three-time PT1 world champion in Para triathlon.

"I really enjoyed it but it's tough. I think this one (Nordic) has been the tougher sport for me to pick up. I think triathlon came a little bit more naturally to me. It's a tough sport and I loved it just being outside and being able to ski. I think that's one thing that I like between the two sports is that you are travelling around the world and you get to race in beautiful venues."

Biathlon dominance

At the first two rounds of this season’s World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland, and Ostersund, Sweden, she won all five biathlon races. Her shooting has been incredible so far and that has installed her as firm favourite to win multiple medals at the World Championships in Prince George, Canada, later this month. She is not getting carried away with the favourite tag however.

"I'm excited for the season just to see how things go. I am looking forward to having another winter to focus on skiing. It's always the goal to win but I'm just really hoping to do my best. I know that there is a lot more to learn and improve on so it's exciting."

Five sports

As a Nordic athlete and a triathlete she has a lot of opportunity to learn as she trains in five different disciplines; skiing, shooting, running, swimming and cycling.

"I like mixing it up a lot so I think it's nice for me not only mentally to take a break and switch things up but everything is with our arms that we are doing. So just using them in a little bit different of a way I enjoy it."

For more information on the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, which begin on 15 February, visit the official Prince George 2019 website.