Grace Grabs Gold in a Flash and a Splash

Illinois Athlete Rules the Pool

By Nance Larsen

July 4, 2018

Special Olympics athlete Grace Seiboldt loves the water. In it, she feels courageous and strong, completely fearless.

With gliding strokes and driving kicks, 21-year-old Grace harnessed her power to win gold in the 200m individual medley yesterday at the King County Aquatics Center. Her time of 3:24:44 put her in elite company and close to the Paralympic women’s world record.

Brother Chris is one of Grace’s biggest fans and his love for his sister is evident in every exuberant hug and enthusiastic exclamation. Bursting with enthusiasm and smiling from ear-to-ear over her accomplishment he said “It was great for all of us to see her excel in this way, we are so incredibly proud of Grace.”

Grace started swimming at five years old and has performed at a very high level. In fact, she has achieved gold in the Special Olympics Illinois State Championships for each of the past 12 years. 

“Once she jumped into the pool, she never looked back,” says her mom Nancy Seiboldt.

The 200m individual medley includes four disciplines: 50m breaststroke, 50m butterfly, 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle. To stay in competitive shape, Grace trains four times a week at the YWCA. For the past two years, she has been working with a very special coach - her sister Megan. Through Megan’s tutelage, Grace’s fastest segment of the individual medley is the breaststroke, but slicing through the water in the freestyle is what truly captures and gets Grace’s heart racing.

“Swimming makes me happy. It makes me smile. I feel free in the water,” says Grace.

Beside her own personal drive and commitment to the sport of swimming, during the Special Olympics USA Games, Grace had some very special motivation when she stepped up to the starting block, adrenaline pumping, for the 200m individual medley. A sea of orange and rising cheers from her very own fan club waving signs and chanting her name – mom Nancy, dad Joel, and brother Chris, along with a dozen aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, her godmother and a former neighbor who flew in from Colorado to watch her compete. Sister Megan and her other brother Matt arrived on the Fourth of July to be on hand to support and celebrate Grace as she competes in her remaining events: the 400m freestyle, 200m breaststroke, and 100m breaststroke as part of the 400m individual medley.

Grace’s amazing athletic abilities are not contained to the pool. She was the first special needs athlete at her high school to compete in cross-country running. During her four years of high school competition, Grace was embraced by her teammates and made life-long friends. For Special Olympics Illinois, she competes in unified soccer, basketball, bowling and track & field. When not competing or training, Gracie enjoys hanging out with her teammates.