As an athlete and a pre-med major at Notre Dame, Sam Grewe says he has a lot on his plate. It’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
Competing in international competition with a disability, he’s been providing inspiration to others.
The 2017 Northridge High School graduate added another highlight to his athletic career Sunday at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, which started on Aug. 23 and will end on Sept. 1.
He earned a gold medal by posting a world record performance in the high jump for that meet, finishing with a lunge of 6-23/4.
“It’s amazing to be in the position that I’m in now,” said Grewe, while being driven around in an Uber car in Lima on Monday. “I’ve put a lot of hard work into it.”
In 2012, when he was 13, he lost his right leg to cancer.
“It has been quite a journey mentally and physically to recover from such a big event in my life,” he said. “To be able to overcome and thrive and be able to compete on the international stage is more than what I could have expected. It means a lot to do it at the event in Peru in front of a sold-out crowd and a year away from the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. I’m setting myself up for success there and the bar keeps going up.”
It wasn’t a personal-best in the high jump for Grewe, as he has gone 6-4 in the past.
Grewe spent part of his day Monday recovering from Sunday’s competition.
“I’m getting treatment on my body from my trainer,” Grewe said. “I’m extremely sore and tight.
“I’m also going to support my teammates today as they compete and fight for medals in other sports, like basketball and rugby. It’s always nice to support the U.S.
“I think over 100,000 tickets have been sold, which is a record number.
“It’s nice to see where you are as an athlete and what you need to improve on and what you’re doing well.”
Goshen College assistant track coach Kyle Mishler has played a big part in Grewe’s success on the track.
“Coach and I have been working so much lately and have seen improvement come,” Grewe said. “We knew the potential was there to jump like I did. I came into the (Parapan Games) with a lot of confidence. That jump wasn’t a fluke.
“Jumping with my friend Ezra (Frech) and with my family in the stands made everything so much more exciting and it got my adrenaline going.”
Frech, a 14-year-old from Los Angeles, is also a leg amputee.
“I’ve been a mentor of his for a few years,” Grewe said. “It’s like a big brother, little brother relationship. He got a silver medal and that was so exciting and I was so proud of him.”
Not just family members are following Grewe’s athletic accomplishments.
“I come from Middlebury, which is a small town,” Grewe said. “Not a lot happens there. It’s exciting when something like this happens. I’ve received an outpouring of support from the Northridge High School community, the Notre Dame family and people across the country. That unwavering support means a lot to me.”
The next international event for Grewe is the World Para Athletics Championships from Nov. 7-15 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
After that, Grewe competes for the Notre Dame men’s track team in advance of the biggest international event, which is the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. That competition goes from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
Trials take place the summer before the games.
“There are extremely high stakes and tension,” Grewe said about qualifying. “There’s a huge amount of athletes competing for a limited amount of spots. When the team is announced, a lot of times you or a friend don’t make the team. But it’s part of the sport. There are high highs and low lows.”
Grewe has an edge on other athletes because of his experience in international events. His first international competition came in 2015 in Doha, Qatar, for the Paralympic World Championships. He earned a gold medal in the high jump.
“To have that past experience that others don’t have allows me to be flexible and adapt to things that I couldn’t have prepared for in the past,” Grewe said.
In 2016, Grewe went to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, for the Paralympic Games and captured a silver medal in the high jump.
Grewe wants his story to serve as an example for other disabled people of what can be accomplished with the proper attitude.
“My message, along with the entire message for the Paralympic movement, is that anything is possible if you work hard towards it,” Grewe said. “Obstacles will come, times will be tough, but with enough hard work and determination and with a goal in mind, you can produce a lot of success.”