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Minnesota gymnast, silver medalist, relies on hard work, trust in God


U.S. Gymnastics 2020 Olympics silver medalists Jordan Chile, Simone Biles, Grace McCallum and Sunisa Lee stand during the award ceremony at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo July 27, 2021. CNS photo/Lindsey Wasson, Reuters

CHAMPLIN, Minn. (CNS) — The Twin City Twisters in Champlin is the home gym of Grace McCallum, a member of the 2018 World Championship U.S. gymnastics team.

A large banner hangs over the facility’s main entrance honoring that accomplishment. Now her supporters can put up a new banner that reads, “Home of Grace McCallum, 2020 Olympic Silver Medalist.”

With four-time 2016 Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles having to withdraw July 27, McCallum and teammates Jordan Chiles and Sunisa Lee scored 166.096 in the team finals, behind the Russian Olympic Committee’s 169.528 for gold. Great Britain took the bronze at 164.096.

McCallum was selected at the conclusion of the U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis June 27 to be part of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team heading to the Tokyo Summer Games, which started July 23.

That’s a lot of pressure for the 18-year-old from Isanti, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. But she took it in stride.

“I’m super excited,” McCallum said as she prepared for Tokyo. “I feel so blessed that I’ve been given this opportunity to go represent our country at the biggest meet in the world.”

The experience has been a little surreal, and as she prepared to leave, she was still caught up in the whirlwind of being chosen for the team, she told The Central Minnesota Catholic, the magazine of the St. Cloud Diocese, prior to leaving for Tokyo.

“I just try not to think about it too much, I’m going to go into the meet and just have fun,” McCallum said. “I mean, I got there; now I’m just going to enjoy it, enjoy every moment. So, I try not to let the pressure of it being the biggest meet get to me.”

McCallum, disappointed the Olympics were postponed last year, said she had to trust her in faith and God’s timing. She planned to compete in 2020 and then take a year off to let her body recover before heading to college at the University of Utah.

There have been other challenges, too. In November her uncle, John McCallum, who was diagnosed with ALS several years ago, died.

“That was really, really hard on our family. It took a while to process because he was such a big part of our lives,” McCallum said. “But I just tell myself I’m going to live like John. He lived life to its fullest. And he really, especially in those last couple of months, relied on God.”

And then in January she broke her left hand and required surgery to put in a plate and seven screws.

“I thought my Olympic dreams were down the drain, but then I thought, ‘No, you know what? Everything happens for a reason.’ I just have to trust God on this one and that he’s looking out for me.”

She is now fully recovered and ready to take on whatever comes her way. “I’m all good. All healed up and ready to go,” she said.

During the pandemic, McCallum and her family watched their parish’s livestreamed Mass. Now that parishioners are back in the pews, McCallum said she hopes they continue with the livestream so she can connect with her home parish while she’s in Tokyo and into the future.

When she travels with the team and can’t attend Mass, she keeps her faith close in other ways. She has a rosary in her backpack as well as a special cross from her grandmother.

“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mom told The Central Minnesota Catholic in a 2019 interview. “Grace won’t travel anywhere without them.”