“Melissa is a USA Paratriathlon National Team member with a broad range of experiences and we are happy to have her represent the USA Triathlon Mideast Region,” said Tara Comer, Chair of the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee. “Not only is Melissa a world-class competitor but she has demonstrated leadership as a member of the Mideast Region Council and co-founder of Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club, but also her work as a Board Member of the Wounded Warrior Project.”
Let’s get to know Melissa a little bit more!
You certainly bring a wealth of experience to the Women’s Committee and as an advocate for the paratriathlon community. Can you tell us a little bit about your sports and fitness background?
I was an avid gymnast growing up, dreamed of being in the Olympics. In high school (Eden Prairie High School, Minn.) along with gymnastics, I was a diver and a pole vaulter, and then a rower in college (University of Colorado, Boulder). I used to think triathletes were crazy. How things change.
You spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering from the amputation of your leg (above knee). What role did sports play in your recovery?
Sports were my recovery. Proving to myself that whether I had one leg or two, I could still get out there and compete. It built confidence and self-worth.
Tell us about the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club. How is that going? How many people are involved? What’s coming up for the club in 2014?
Dare2Tri is thriving. We are the first USAT sanctioned Paratriathlon club and when we started in 2011, we have the modest goal of having 20 athletes in the first year. We now boast over 160 youth, adults and injured service members with physical disabilities on our roster and are growing daily. In 2014 we will have multisport clinics, adult and youth camps, racing and training opportunities and more. Our full schedule is on www.dare2tri.org.
As a coach, can you share any advice for someone with a disability who might be reluctant to get involved in sports like paratriathlon?
Use the resources that are out there and don’t be afraid to give it a try. Use the Challenged Athletes Foundation and submit a grant application for your own adaptive equipment, reach out to established triathlon clubs and other athletes with disabilities. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish if you just give it a try.
Why did you decide to get involved in the governance of the sport?
I am so passionate about the sport of triathlon and how it can change someone’s life. I love that thought of giving back and getting more athletes involved so they too can feel the thrill of crossing that finish line. I hope to accomplish that while joining the strong group of women on the Women’s Committee.
What have you enjoyed about working with the Mideast Council? Are there any goals or accomplishments you would like to note?
I have been on the Mideast Council for the past few months. I am an advocate for Paratriathletes to assure that athletes with disabilities are included in all aspects of the region. Next year I look forward to working alongside other committee members on a youth camp and getting more athletes into the sport.
What advise would you have for someone that wants to become involved in governance but is hesitant?
Reach out to those already in leadership positions. Talk with them, learn about their experience and be honest with yourself if you are committed to the cause. Each position takes time, so make sure you have the needed time to devote to it and make a difference.
Congratulations on becoming an Ironman! You did Ironman Arizona in November finishing in 15:12:19. What did you learn from that journey about yourself?
I learned a few things. First, that I have the best support system in the world. Second, that an Ironman is both a mental and a physical battle, especially in those last few miles. And last, all the pain is worth it when you cross that finish line!
One sentence answers:
Inspiration: Those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Good luck charm or superstition: I eat gummy worms the night before any triathlon.
First triathlon: Manitou Sprint Triathlon in 2006. My second race wasn’t until three years later.
Best moment of triathlon career: Winning my first ITU Paratriathlon World Championships (TRI-2) on September 11, 2011.
Most challenging/difficult triathlon moment: Learning that things, such as a flat tire, aren’t always in your control.
Your definition of success: Giving it your all and believing in yourself.
After a race, I like to: Eat some frozen yogurt, take a bath, and analyze my splits.
Post race or workout treat (food): Chocolate milk or frozen yogurt
Favorite place to run: Chicago lakefront path
Favorite bike course: Door County, Wisc.
Favorite place to swim: In a pool!
Favorite memory: while carrying the American flag in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games closing ceremony: Being so proud to represent a country I am so passionate about. I am a very proud American.
What sports-related book is on your nightstand or one that you’ve recently read? Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Inspired by (female triathlete) Sandy Dukat
Inspired by (female in triathlon governance) Keri Serota, Executive Director of Dare2Tri (Mideast Triathlon Council and Paratriathlon Committee)
Photos courtesy of Melissa Stockwell
Melissa Stockwell is a USAT Certified Coach (Level 1). An Iraq war veteran and an above-the-knee amputee, Melissa is a three-time World Champion of the Tri2 class in Paratriathlon and competed in swimming at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. She currently works at Scheck and Siress Prosthetics, is a motivational speaker and serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warriors Project.
For more information about Melissa, visit: www.melissastockwell.com and you can follow her on Twitter @MStockwell01