Stockwell earned a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 as part of a U.S. podium sweep in the women's PT2 division.
When two-time Paralympian and former U.S. Army officer Melissa Stockwell saw an email in her inbox about applying for the resident program at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she initially disregarded it.
“I honestly thought, I'm not going to move my whole family out there, that's a really big deal,” the 39-year-old said. “I put it in my archives folder.”
Stockwell was living with her family in Chicago, raising her two children and training with coach Chris Palmquist.
But she found herself in Colorado Springs a few weeks later for her husband’s work and was invited to join a workout with the paratriathlon resident team at the OPTC.
“It was the hardest practice I have ever done. They were cruising along and I was dying,” the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native said. “I got out of the pool and was like, oh my gosh. This is the benefit of the resident program. The altitude, the environment with the other athletes, no wonder they're getting so much faster.”
After discussing it with her husband, Stockwell submitted an application to the resident program.
“I'm so fortunate, my husband is extremely supportive,” Stockwell said. “He said, ‘if we don't go, you're never going to know what things would have been like had you gone out there.’ I needed to give it a shot just to see what I could do.”
The family headed for the mountains in early January.
Stockwell’s daily routine now revolves around her training. She gets to the OPTC every morning at 7:00 a.m. and doesn’t leave until 4:30 p.m., when she leaves to pick up her kids from daycare.
Her days consistently include three workouts, with morning pool workouts, sessions in the High Altitude Training Center, workouts in the Ted Stevens Sports Services Center, trips to the sports medicine and sport psychology offices, and more.
“My training is at a higher intensity than it has ever been, in terms of the amount of time I'm training and the level that it's at,” Stockwell said. She lived and trained at the OPTC as a swimmer before competing at the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008 as well.
“Obviously, the resources here at the training center are amazing; sports medicine, sport psych, nutrition, this amazing food provided for me every day. It really is making me the best athlete I can be.”
The move paid off just two months later, when Stockwell earned silver at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships in March. She most recently won the 2019 ITU Paratriathlon World Cup stop this July in Magog, Canada.
“My coach [Derick Williamson] and I have a motto, which is ‘progress over perfection, taking things day by day’. I'm not going to be where I want to be overnight but hopefully it'll add up in the end,” Stockwell said. “Coming back after having two kids is not the easiest thing to do. It seems like while I was gone, everyone got a lot faster. I'm kind of playing catch-up.”
Her family has been adjusting to the move as well. They’ve adjusted so much, in fact, that they’re thinking of staying in Colorado for longer than anticipated.
“My kids have made friends, we've adjusted, we're meeting people here. Our plan was always to go back to Chicago eventually, but I think Colorado is reeling us in to stay,” Stockwell said. “It's hard for it not to grow on you. I just love the hikes and views and all that Colorado has to offer, really.”
Based off of her recent results, Stockwell hopes to get invited to the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, held in Lausanne, Switzerland at the end of August.
She also has many plans for what her post-competitive life looks like, including running a prosthetics company with her husband, Brian, continuing to work as a motivational speaker, staying involved with USA Triathlon and coaching triathletes and of course, raising her children.
But for now? Progress over perfection, day by day.
“It was a good move, but it was scary because it was such a big change. It's not just me anymore, it's my entire family,” Stockwell said. “I'm just really thankful that I have people here – my coach and the team – who believed in me and brought me out here to see what I could do. I'm giving it everything I can and that's all you can do.”