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2-time Paralympian and retired 1st lieutenant on the road to Tokyo 2021

Published: Jan. 17, 2021 at 11:58 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - 2020 was a year of constant change and flexibility for all. That includes major changes to one of the most anticipated events every four years, the summer Olympics and Paralympics. The Tokyo 2020 games were rescheduled to 2021 as the pandemic hit most of the world. For one local Paralympian, the rescheduled games only made her hungrier for another medal.

Retired 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell lost her leg 16 years ago while on deployment in Iraq.

“I lost my left leg above the knee just on a routine convoy through central Baghdad,” said Stockwell.

Stockwell was in rehab at Walter Reid Medical Center where she re-learned how to walk and do just about any activity she did with two legs, now with one. While going through rehab she had many thoughts of what her life would look like now. She knew only one thing would be able to get her back on her feet.

“I knew I wouldn’t really by myself again until I got back into athletics,” said Stockwell. “Before I knew it skiing on one leg. I was doing a marathon or a bike I powered with my arms.”

As the training and hard work continued Stockwell learned about the Paralympics and decided that she would become part of Team USA and represent the country on the “world’s biggest athletic stage.”

Stockwell didn’t do it alone. In fact, she teamed up with Semper Fi and America’s Fund who through donations were able to get the athlete to competitions she needs to be at in order to qualify for the Paralympics. Then from there, onto the actual competition. With their help, her dream quickly became a reality.

“I swam in 2008 in the Beijing Paralympics, and then I changed to the sport of triathlon and competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, where I was able to earn a Bronze medal and probably one of the best days of my life.”

The Bronze medal she won was much more than a medal to her.

“Putting on the USA uniform and being able to again represent this country that I defended over in Iraq and being on that podium in Rio, it wasn’t just me up there. It was everyone who had supported me. It was the soldiers who had, you know, given the ultimate sacrifice and had lost their lives for our country. I was there for them.”

Stockwell says without the support of those organizations, her friends, and, most importantly, her husband and two kids, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

In fact, in 2019, she and her family decided to pack up their lives and move to Olympic City USA from Chicago so she could train for what was then Tokyo 2020.

“If I wanted to make Tokyo happen this was the place for me to be.”

Stockwell says living in a city engulfed in the excitement and pride of the Olympics and Paralympics has helped fuel her to do more than she ever thought she would. Her next goal, a medal in Tokyo.

During her training and in the middle of the pandemic Stockwell also wrote a book, “The Power of Choice: My Journey from Wounded Warrior to World Champion.”

“The goal is that you read it and think about your own life and the power to live the life that you want to live.”

Beyond her busy training schedule, running around with the kiddos, and now her newest title -- author -- Stockwell and her husband also own a local business, Tolsma/Stockwell Prosthetics. They help fit prosthetics and orthotic devices.

One thing is likely, we will all be watching Stockwell work her way towards victory at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics.

If you would like to help wounded veterans, you can donate to Semper Fi and America’s Fund here.

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