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Kidney Donor, New Mother And Olympic Hopeful Marissa Howell Is Ready To Do Whatever It Takes

By Allie Dosmann | Nov. 08, 2018, 3:50 p.m. (ET)

Marissa Howell trains on July 28, 2018 at Scouting Camp: Next Olympic Hopeful in Colorado Springs, Colo.


The last two years have been a whirlwind for Marissa Howell.

First, on May 5, 2016, she celebrated her 21st birthday. Then, 13 days later, she donated a kidney to a friend in need of a transplant.

Six months after that, she found out she was pregnant. On Aug. 15, 2017, she gave birth to her daughter.

In June of 2018, she went back to work for the first time since giving birth. Then in July, she traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to pursue her Olympic dream through “Milk Life presents, Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful.” 

“My body has had a lot of things to overcome… At the end of the day, I may not take home a spot, but my body has been through surgeries, childbirth, childbearing and just everything, so I have a lot to be proud of,” Howell said. 

Luckily, she feels like her body was built for the kind of quick turn-around she faced at a three-day combine at the U.S. Olympic Training Center this summer.

“If I work at something, it happens fast. If I take a month off of squatting, I lose my strength really fast, but then, three months in, I’ll get that and more back,” she explained. “So, I have a really adaptive body, which is amazing.”

Howell tried out for Next Olympic Hopeful at 24 Hour Fitness on a whim, with only three days left before the deadline. 

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“When I tried out, I didn’t think I would make it. When I found out, I almost passed out! I just had a total meltdown,” Howell explained. “I sent it to my boss because I didn’t think he’d believe me.”

Howell describes herself as a “stay-at-home mom who just likes working out,” but her history in sport implies much more than a casual hobby. She has dabbled in volleyball and softball but found a passion for powerlifting in high school, which isn’t exactly the casual sport for a high school student. Powerlifting gives her a very strong background for this type of program.

Next Olympic Hopeful is a talent-identification program aimed at finding athletes with a background in any sport whose skills could transfer to various Olympic sports. The sports for Season 2 are bobsled, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting. One winner was selected for each sport, and the winners will attend camps with their sport in hopes of making the national team and, eventually, the Olympic team.

“Powerlifting or weightlifting is my passion, but I’m also interested in bobsled and rugby,” she said. “The more I’m here the more I find that’s what power-sport athletes are looking at. I would love to do rugby because it’s aggressive, and it fits my personality well, and I’d love to have the opportunity to learn a different sport and be elite at it.”

While Howell acknowledges that she might not be the strongest or the fastest person in the competition, she hangs her hat on her ability to push herself to her absolute limits.

“I have a lot of mental strength,” Howell said. “If I don’t measure up to someone athletically, mentally I know I can pull through past their spot.”

This mental fortitude is something that she has worked toward and is proud of, and she credits an underlying motivation as the most contributing factor.

“If I don’t win, I need to make sure I leave it all out there because I can’t imagine if (my daughter) was older, and I had to tell her ‘Well, Mommy just gave up, there were some things I just gave up on,’” Howell said. “So, I just keep telling myself that for her sake to keep working.”