When Melissa Stockwell was young, she dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast. And although her life has taken a few unexpected turns, she has maintained her love of athletics and competitive spirit. Today, Stockwell is a national and global paratriathlon champion who is getting ready to compete for a spot on Team USA, headed to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2005, Stockwell became the first female to lose a limb during active combat when her vehicle was struck by an IED outside of Baghdad. Her lower left leg was amputated, and although she underwent a number of surgeries and survived a number of infections, she writes on her website that her sense of gratitude and hope remained intact.
The journey that led her to become an international athletic champion and sports world icon is nothing short of inspiring. Just three years after her injury, she became the first Iraq veteran to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. After that, Stockwell changed over to triathlon, earning three national titles and three international titles.
Stockwell has been nominated for multiple ESPYs and has won a host of other awards. But according to a profile in Sports Illustrated, Stockwell is not the exception to the rule. Instead, the magazine suggested that Stockwell is at the forefront of a new generation of physically impaired veterans who have used advances in technology, along with their own resilience, to fight against the notion that they are disabled.
Along the way, Stockwell wrote, she has relied on the support of organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Achilles’ Freedom Team. Today, she is on the board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project and the USA Triathlon Foundation.
Stockwell is pregnant with her first child, and she is expected to give birth in November. She told reporters for the U.S. Olympic Team that the timing of the baby was part of her plan for Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Although she was not sure until recently that she would be able to try out for the team, she told reporters that she had been training just in case.
Now, she says, she is ready to give it her all to achieve her dreams of Paralympic success.
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