Normandeau Prepares For Competition At Paralympic Games
Thomas Normandeau competed in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at Western Oregon and has a lifetime best of 49.86 seconds in the 400 meters. Photo courtesy of Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Thomas Normandeau competed in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at Western Oregon and has a lifetime best of 49.86 seconds in the 400 meters. Photo courtesy of Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – Former Western Oregon track and field athlete Thomas Normandeau was a latecomer to the sport. Now he is in Tokyo representing his home country in the Paralympic Games.

Normandeau, whose hometown is Peace River, Alberta, was one of 16 athletes selected to represent Canada in track and field at the Paralympics, which began on August 24. He is scheduled to run in the preliminaries of the T47 400 meters on Friday, September 3. The finals will be run on September 4.

Comparable to the Olympic Games and contested in the same year and at the same site selected for the Olympics, the Paralympic Games is a major international sports competition for athletes with disabilities. Qualifying disabilities include amputees, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries and intellectual disability.

According to the Athletics Canada website, Normandeau, who was born without his left hand, didn’t even know that the Paralympics existed until he had completed two seasons of competition at Western Oregon. A middle-distance specialist, Normandeau placed ninth in the 800 meters at the 2018 GNAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and was eighth in the 1,500 meters the year before. He placed seventh in the 800 meters at the 2017 GNAC Indoor Championships.

To place at the conference championships was a significant accomplishment for Normandeau, who did not start running until he joined the cross country team at Washougal (Wash.) High School. He started running to get into better shape for football. Normandeau went on to run both cross country and track and field at Clark College at Vancouver, Washington, before transferring to Western Oregon in 2017.

“Towards the end of my university career was when I first got involved with Para sport. I never really knew it existed,” Nornamdeau told Athletics Canada. “When I got in contact with Athletics Canada, I realized that there was a lot of support and an opportunity to become an athlete for Team Canada and have the name of Canada across my chest and represent my country. So I decided to go through with that when I graduated.”

Since learning about Para sport, Normandeau’s career has advanced to another level. He opened a breakthrough season in 2019. He opened the season by running 51.05 seconds at the Desert Challenge Games in Tempe, Arizona. That set a Canadian record for the T47 disability classification for people with a below the elbow or wrist amputation. He went on to win the T47 400 meters at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in 52.35 seconds.

In his first season on the international stage, Normandeau placed sixth at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru and placed eighth at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai.

Normandeau opened the 2021 season by dropping under 50 seconds in the 400 meters for the first time, running 49.86 seconds at the Azusa Pacific Last Chance Twilight on May 15. After three more meets in California, Normandeau ran in a series of six meets in Canada. That included winning the 400 meters at the Canada Paralympic Track and Field Trials in a time of 51.25 seconds.

After having never broken the 52-second barrier in college, Normandeau has not run slower than 51.74 seconds this season.

“Thomas was very thankful to have been part of the Western Oregon program but he was excited, in a really special way, to learn about the Para athlete movement,” said former Western Oregon track and field coach Mike Johnson, who coached Normandeau in Monmouth. “To be able to represent Canada, and all of that know him, is truly outstanding.”

Normandeau is one of 14 athletes scheduled to compete in the T47 400 meters. He has the ninth-fastest personal best in the field and the sixth-fastest season-best time.