719 Report – Motivation From Melissa Stockwell

MStockwell_groupEarly Wednesday morning, January 20th, my alarm went off and I quickly rolled out of bed, got dressed, let the dog out, grabbed my swim bag, and headed out. In my morning pre-coffee fog I almost headed north when I needed to go south. But I got my bearings and made my way down Powers Boulevard towards the Southeast & Armed Forces YMCA in south Colorado Springs.
I walked into the large community room set up with seating for about 50 people, with a podium up front. TV video cameras were set up in the back. The room was soon full of men and women in Army warm-up jackets and pants. Many are members of the Warrior Transition Unit of Ft. Carson, and they were about to get inspired.
Melissa Stockwell, three-time paratriathlon world champion, was invited to speak to the group, some of whom are members of the Southeast YMCA’s brand new triathlon team. She had a brief window of time while she is in Colorado Springs, and generously donated her time to give a motivating talk to a packed room.
Melissa shared her story, starting as a patriotic kid who knew from an early age she wanted to be a part of the military to serve her country. She attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and joined the ROTC there. She was a senior on 9/11/2001. After graduation she was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the Transportation Corps, and in March 2004 began what was supposed to be a year-long deployment. Three weeks into her deployment the convoy she was in was hit by a roadside bomb and she lost her left leg.
Photo: Ross Dettman

Photo: Ross Dettman

After getting back to the US, she spent about a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was there she went through rehabilitation and realized she was “lucky to only lose one leg.” She decided, as she figured out what her new normal was, to get back into athletics and dedicate her life to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
In her rehab she did some swimming and cycling, and learned about the Paralympics. She decided she liked swimming so gave that a try. Though she wasn’t a favorite entering the trials and was competing against people who had been training much longer, she qualified for the 2008 USA Paralympic team that competed in Beijing. While she didn’t perform as she’d hoped, Team USA athletes chose her to carry the US flag in the closing ceremony, and she realized what a big honor that was. It was all about the journey of overcoming obstacles that are thrown your way, and she had overcome some big ones.
After Beijing she learned about triathlon, tried a race, and hasn’t really looked back. Her first World Championship was won in Budapest on 9-11-2010, so has extra special meaning to her.
Stockwell-presentingNext up for Melissa is the Olympic qualifying race in Sarasota, FL in March. Her goal is to compete in Rio now that triathlon is a Paralympic sport. She’s in Colorado Springs this week for a swimming camp.
In closing, she told the group to take opportunities that are presented, take chances, and believe in yourself. Be optimistic and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
Thanks to Hollis Lyman, coach of the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA triathlon team, for bringing Melissa in to speak. If you are interested in learning more about the team, which currently focuses on sprint and Olympic distance racing, you can contact Hollis at hlyman(at)ppymca.org.
Here are some local news videos of the event:

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