Kendall Gretsch: Everything you need to know about US paralympic star

Team USA athlete looks forward to returning to the snow at the Paralympic Winter Games after Summer gold in Tokyo.

By Nick Judd
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Winning two gold medals at a Paralympic Winter Games is already a staggering achievement but in 2021, American Kendall Gretsch went out and added a summer Paralympic gold to her collection.

Six months on from the Tokyo Games, Gretsch will be back on the snow to try and defend her cross-country skiing and biathlon titles.

Here is everything you need to know about the supremely-talented athlete from Downers Grove, Illinois.

Kendall Gretsch of the United States competing at PyeongChang 2018
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Triathlon was her first love

Gretsch, who was born with spina bifida, grew up swimming and competing on her high school’s swim team.

She became involved in triathlon after her sophomore year of college, after she was encouraged to join a local para-triathlon club.

From there, she was hooked on the sport.

In 2015 and 2018 she was shortlisted in the Best Female Athlete with a Disability category at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly [ESPY] Awards*. *

She was also named the 2014 Female Para Triathlete of the Year by USA Triathlon.

Kendall Gretsch
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Denied a spot at Rio 2016

While still competing in triathlon (she was already a world champion by this time), she started searching for a new sport to try after discovering that her triathlon category would not be a part of the Paralympic programme for the 2016 Games in Rio.

This is when the idea of competing at the Winter Paralympics first came to Gretsch.

"I wanted to find another sport where I would have the chance to go to the Paralympics,” Gretsch told paralympic.org.

“I think this one [skiing] 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.”

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Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Double gold at PyeongChang 2018

While triathlon is very much Gretsch’s strongest sport, her first Paralympic experience would be on the snow, at PyeongChang 2018.

It was here where she would win her first two gold medals, in the women’s 6km sitting biathlon event, and the 12km sitting cross-country event.

She achieved all of this despite being new to both events, having taken up nordic skiing only two years prior.

Gretsch also made American history in the process, becoming the first female athlete representing Team USA to win a gold in the biathlon.

Following her winter exploits, the 29-year-old made her Summer Games debut in 2021.

In Tokyo, she notably defeated the reigning world champion Lauren Parker to claim a paratriathlon gold medal.

Sealing that title saw her become only the fifth American to have clinched gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Paralympics.

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Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Dominating the World Para Snow Championships

This isn’t to say that she has moved on from the Winter Paralympics, though.

On the contrary, as in January 2021 Gretsch sent a message to her cross-country skiing rivals by winning gold in the 7.5 km sitting event at the World Para Snow Sports Championships.

She added to this days later by collection two more golds, this time in the women’s 10 km biathlon, and the women’s individual sitting biathlon.

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Picture by 2022 Getty Images

A big favourite in Beijing

Heading into Beijing 2022, which gets underway at the beginning of next month, Gretsch looks like the athlete to beat once again.

However, how will she respond to being labelled as a huge favourite to retain her two titles?

It’s a striking contrast to 2018, where she admits the target was to simply win a medal of any colour.

“Going into the Games I was just hoping to maybe win a medal, so to win two golds [in 2018] was incredible,” she recently told paralympic.org.

“I still feel pretty new to the sport so I'm trying to take all races as learning experiences.

“There's a lot you can learn by practising and training but on some level, you just have to get into races and do them to get better."

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Picture by 2018 Getty Images

She has another career outside of sport

Alongside her sporting commitments, Gretsch also works as technical support for a company that provides health care software to hospitals and other medical facilities.

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