Grace Miller just represented Team USA at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea but she is already looking ahead four years. That is because the 2022 games will be held in China. You see, the Palmer, Alaska native was adopted from there when she was three years old. Since then, skiing has always been a big part of her life. “My mom was a biathlon coach, so I began skiing at the age of four,” she said.
In Alaska, there are plenty of opportunities and plenty of reasons to ski. “Alaska is so dark and skiing gives me a reason to be outside. Plus it has snow like sixty percent of the time,” she said. I like being in nature and I also enjoy the physical excursion.”
The Nordic skier was born without a left forearm, which has not been much of an obstacle. She skied on high school team and trains regularly at Government Peak Recreation Area. A couple years ago, Miller came to a realization. “Yeah, I can compete (at the highest level), I just need to train harder.” In January 2017, she attended an athlete identification camp where she met BethAnn Chamberlain, the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Development Coach. “Grace immediately impressed me with her focus, attentiveness, and athleticism,” Chamberlain wrote in her nomination of Miller to Disabled Sports USA’ E-Team, a program designed to support and empower emerging young athletes (ages 13-24) with disabilities who are training competitively in sports that are featured in the summer and winter Paralympic Games. In December 2017, Miller would complete at the Para Nordic World Cup in Canmore, Canada. Miller would finish 12th out of 15th in the World Cup race. “Losing races is upsetting,” she said. “I’m inexperienced.” That being said, she was selected to go to the Paralympics as a wild card slot. “It was complete unexpected. But it was truly an honor to represent the U.S. and be part of the Olympic community.” In PyeongChang, the E-Team member would end up competing in the 7.5km cross-country, the open 4×2.5km cross-country, and the 15km cross-country, where she earned her best finish (10th).
Miller just graduated from high school and will be attending the University of Fairbanks this fall, already as a junior since she earned several college credits as part of dual high school-college program she participated in the past couple of years. She plans on majoring in biology, with expectations to go to medical school. Miller was also recently named to the 2018-19 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team and admits down the road it could be challenging to balance being a full-time med student and a full-time athlete.
In terms of her athletic training, she is always working to improve her strength as well as endurance. “I am trying to push myself to the maximum,” she said. “I want to feel total exhaustion (at the end) and haven’t done that yet.” She also says it helps to have a set schedule, an hourly plan. “There is always some way to improve.” After all, she looks up to four-time Paralympian Oksana Masters, one of the best, as her role model.