Kate Grace was the only American to make the women’s 800-meter event at the Rio Olympics. She had a tough road ahead of her, as the race included South Africa’s Caster Semenya. Grace did do well in the semifinals, running in 1:58.79, but she finished in eighth place in the final.
Here’s a look at Grace’s life and career.
1. Grace’s Mother is ’80s Fitness Icon Kathy Smith, Who Has Been Her Cheerleader from the Start
Grace was born in Sacramento and raised in Los Angeles. Her mother is Kathy Smith, the famed fitness instructor who starred in videos that sold millions around the country. One of Smith’s videos, Kathy Smith’s Pregnancy Workout, was even filmed while Smith was pregnant with Grace.
In an interview with The New York Times, Grace said that her mother has been a cheerleader for her from the start. She even still uses some of the techniques that her mother taught her.
Grace told the Times:
She would make us meditate or do yoga for our own good. I would tell her I was clearing my mind — and lie. But now I use breathing techniques like those to calm me down before races. I wasn’t able to articulate what she taught me when it was giving me an edge. But now I realize, that’s just because I’ve been doing it all since I was 5 years old.
Grace also has a younger sister named Perrie. Her father is Stephen Grace. She is currently dating Patrick O’Neil.
2. She First Played Basketball & Soccer Before Running & Said Her Mother Didn’t Push Her
Grace played soccer and basketball before she became interested in running and cross country. Although Smith also ran, the 27-year-old Grace told Spikes that her mother didn’t push her into running.
“My mum certainly never pushed me into running and she left it to the coaches as to the way I trained, but she was a big help to me in the way I mentally prepared for big races,” she said.
In that same interview, Grace explained that her mother taught her the value of a complete workout. She said:
My mother also taught me the value of the full-body workout of strength, flexibility and mobility. This full-body endeavor is very important to me: as a high-level athlete as it allows me to withstand the pounding on the body. This is something I learned growing up and now it seems very natural to me.
3. Grace Is Only the Second Woman to Represent Yale in Track & Field at the Olympics
Grace graduated from Yale University in 2011. According to YaleBulldogs.com, she’s just the second woman to represent Yale in the track and field events at the Olympics since Kate O’Neill ran in the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 10,000-meter run.
“Nothing she does surprises me,” Yale coach David Schoehalter told Sportz Edge. “But that doesn’t take away from her accomplishment. When she was at Yale, it was clear that she was a special kid.”
While at Yale, Grace set four school records and made it to the NCAA championships in the 800 and 1,500-meter races. She was also a four-time NCAA All-American while at Yale.
4. She Was Coached by the Legendary Frank Gagliano & Hopes to be His First Runner to Medal
The 79-year-old Frank Gagliano of the New York-New Jersey Track Club was Grace’s coach. Gagliano is a track legend, having coached at just about every level imaginable. Sixteen of his athletes were at the 2016 Olympic trials, which will be his last, in July.
Surprisingly, none of his athletes have medalled. Grace told ESPN in 2013that she hopes to be the first.
“A big driving factor for me is to give him an Olympic medal,” she told ESPN.
“He’s been incredible,” Grace said of Gagliano. “He comes from coaching football and is very inspiring. He brings out the excitement and passion in training.”
Update: Grace’s current coach is Drew Wartenburg.
5. Grace’s Corporate Sponsor, Oiselle, Got in Trouble Over Sharing Images of Her at the Olympic Trials
Grace turned pro right out of college and went on to win the 2013 USA 1 Mile championships and the silver medal at the 4×1,500-meter relay at the World Relay Championships in 2014. Her corporate sponsor is Oiselle, a running-wear brand based in Seattle. She even writes a blog for the company.
Osielle, which is nowhere near as well-known as Nike, sought to take advantage of one of their athletes making the Olympics by celebrating her success and using photos of her on its site and social media. Unfortunately, as The Orange County Register pointed out, this caused a dispute with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which requested that Osielle take the photos down, as they included the USOC’s logo.
O’Neil complained about the USOC’s request on Facebook. “I ask you to please SHARE this post to make people aware of the behind the scenes bullying that Team USA does to the athletes chasing their dreams and the people and companies that are there for them during the years of training when no one else is,” O’Neil wrote.
In its own response to the trademark restrictions, Osielle has been posting news items on its site that don’t mention its athletes by name. One post about Grace, for example, includes a picture with her blacked out. In the text, Grace is only mentioned as “K” and “The Finalist.”