Paste Olympics Interview: Melissa Stockwell

Olympics Features
Paste Olympics Interview: Melissa Stockwell

Melissa Stockwell found her life’s motivation under circumstances none of us would envy. On April 13th, 2004, she found herself in a Bagdad emergency room still in her Army fatigues, trying to recover from the loss of her left leg, blown off by a roadside bomb. In short order, she was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple heart for her service in Iraq, medically retired from all services, and began work with the Wounded Warrior Project.

But Stockwell didn’t just want to walk again—she wanted to complete. During her rehab she would learn how to swim, ski and bike again; in 2008, she won a spot on the 2008 U.S. Paralympic team.

While Stockwell didn’t medal in the Beijing Games, she was elected by her fellow Team USA athletes to lead the U.S. delegation into the closing ceremonies, carrying the American Flag before a sold-out crowd in Beijing. Motivated by her success after those games Stockwell began training in the Paratriathlon, which will make its debut as a Paralympic sport this summer at the Rio Games. Paste caught up with Stockwell as she looks forward to landing a spot to represent the U.S. in Rio.

If you could break down your methods for setting yourself up for success as if you were writing a cookbook, what would your recipe for a successful life look like?

Belief in yourself, a good support system, resilience, dedication, humor, and learning to not sweat the small stuff.

Where are you at in your journey toward the games, tell us about your pursuits of competing in the Rio Games and how you are feeling about the whole process.

On July 8, they will announce the team and I am hoping my name is on it. After I had my son 18 months ago, I had the dream of making a comeback, getting back into competitive shape and making it to Rio. It hasn’t been easy as having a child changes everything; your body, your mindset to name a few. But I chose to trust the process, take things day by day and use my son for extra motivation. I hope he can watch me wear the USA uniform later this year as I compete in Rio.

Let’s look back at the 2008 Paralympic Games, what do you remember the most about that time?

At that time, my journey from Baghdad to Beijing was more important that anything else. I was so lucky to wear the USA uniform, to represent a country I love and to be nominated to carry the American flag into closing ceremonies. That is what I remember most.

If we look at back at your life, you could say each step, each year in your life is a beautiful chapter to one amazing book that everyone should read, using that metaphor, what’s the one chapter you want people to think of most often when thinking of your book?

I don’t think that chapter has been written yet. Losing my leg is part of my story but I want to be known for what I did after that. Ask me again in a few years. (Laughs)

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