Grunewald featured in new book
Minnesota author Patrick Mader has released the second book in his collection about Minnesota Olympians, Paralympians and world champions titled “More Minnesota Gold.” Mader released the book on March 23, with an official launch set for April 16, however that was scrapped because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The books are about Minnesota athletes who became Olympians, Paralympians or competed in the world championships,” Mader said. “The second book is broader and covers a couple of athletes who didn’t make it despite more than a decade of training but were always so close and very prominent in their sport.”
Mader is a former teacher who loves Minnesota history. He said he remembered watching Billy Mills win the gold medal in the 10,000-meter run in 1964. It was an event that stuck with him. He said the Olympics has something to offer for everyone.
His idea of writing the books on Minnesota athletes came from a canoe trip.
“I was doing a lengthy canoe trip and wondered if there was ever a Minnesota Olympian in canoeing. There was no database for it,” Mader said. “After hours of research, I found out there was a man from Wayzata, who had been in three Olympics. I called him, arranged an interview and he was so intelligent, articulate and funny. He was approachable and a low-key guy. I thought that this could become a book if I found more like him and I found 100 more like them.”
The second book features 51 athletes from Minnesota, including a section on University of Minnesota’s and Perham’s Gabriele Grunewald, who passed away after a battle with cancer.
Mader spoke with Grunewald at a local coffee shop after she just finished a run. Mader said his time with Grunewald was a very pleasant experience.
He interviewed her in November of 2018, which was about six months before she passed away. He said Grunewald was in great spirits, funny, energetic, lively and thoughtful with all of her answers during their two-hour interview. Mader said she was very modest, but very proud of her courage during her fight with cancer.
“She did very well at the state level and was a walk-on at Minnesota which she parlayed into a scholarship, which kept increasing every year because of her performance being so good,” Mader said. “She became a varsity cross country runner her second year and then she became a Big 10 runner up and collegiately she placed nationally also. She finally got to the point and was in the Olympic trials and placed fourth. She was very close to becoming an Olympian and did participate in the World Championships in the 3,000M run.”
He said their conversation was positive and she told him several stories about her great teammates and the work she put into becoming an elite athlete.
Her courage is what stood out to him during the interview.
“At the time I had interviewed her, she had cancer for nine years. She did not have any self-pity and she did not complain. I just found her attitude, this positive attitude remarkable,” Mader said. “I can see why people gravitate towards her because of that. She had already started the Brave Like Gabe Foundation and was pretty involved with that. She got a master’s degree in nonprofit organizations and she was utilizing her educational skills in setting up this foundation.”
Mader said writing the chapter on Grunewald was an emotional time after she found out she had more cancer.
Grunewald passed away during the final edit of the book.
“It was rather challenging and somewhat emotional when I was writing it. At the time I was writing it, she was found with more cancer. She reviewed the article and I had a couple of facts wrong, one was regarding a venue and a time, and she corrected those. She had passed away when it went to the publisher for a final edit. I had to add an addendum for the last part of her life and had to be revised a bit. That was pretty emotional,” Mader said. “It was someone I just met recently and really enjoyed and is no longer living. One of the runners, Kari Tollefson, who is an Olympian, sent me a letter about her and I added some of her words at the end because they were so poignant for the situation.”
Mader said he has formed several solid friendships throughout his time researching for both of his books on Minnesota Olympians.
“Since the book came out, I have probably received a dozen thank you notes from the athletes. A lot of them said I thought I was forgotten but now I have this to share with my children and grandchildren,” Mader said. “It’s been a very pleasant experience and has gotten me to expand my horizons and develop more growth and friendships.”
Mader said one of the unique things of meeting all these different athletes is their unique backgrounds and paths they have taken to become an Olympic level athlete.
“I find it rather amazing how some of those particularly from rural Minnesota without the benefits of some of the better technology, better coaching and better facilities can still become Olympians. The hockey players from northern Minnesota are phenomenal,” Mader said. “There was a discus thrower from a little town in southern Minnesota and she just threw in a regular field and yet because of their determination, their dedication and passion for the sport, they have been able to be among the elite athletes and it’s quite impressive.”
Usually, Mader would be on the road promoting his book, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to that.
“I have had a dozen speaking engagements canceled because of it, but that is minor. I realize what people in the health profession are going through, businesses and educators. I appreciate what they are doing,” Mader said. “There is no doubt it’s been restrictive and sales are not as good as a result. But, if they do allow congregations again in the near future and the Olympics go on as planned next year, I’m still hoping I can get out and spread the word about these Minnesota athletes.”
The book is only available right now at www.patrickmader.com