For the third time in her career, Melissa Stockwell will be competing in the Paralympic Games. Her road to Tokyo hasn’t been easy, but she continues to defy the odds.
Earlier this summer, Stockwell was involved in a bike crash. The two-time Paralympic triathlete suffered fractures to her L2 and L3 vertebrae. Even though she hasn’t had much time to recover, Stockwell plans on being in Tokyo for this year’s event. In fact, she’s using her platform to inspire and help out other athletes with physical disabilities.
Stockwell is partnering with P&G for this year’s Olympic and Paralympic games. It’s a partnership that seems like a true no-brainer for both parties, as it’ll help strengthen Stockwell’s Dare2Tri organization.
“I’m proud to be working with P&G for their Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 campaign,” Stockwell said in a press release.”P&G and its brands are using the power of the Olympic movement to encourage people everywhere to ‘lead with love’ to help make the world more equitable and inclusive.”
We caught up with Melissa Stockwell this week to discuss her partnership with P&G, her mindset heading into this year’s Paralympic Games and much more.
This interview with Melissa Stockwell is presented by Procter & Gamble.
The Spun: Can you tell me about your involvement with the P&G Athletes For Good Fund and why that was a good fit for you?
Melissa Stockwell: It’s an amazing fit. P&G Athletes For Good Fund awards $10,000 in grant money to charitable organizations that support Olympic and Paralympic athletes. My organization is called Dare2Tri, and we get athletes with physical disabilities into the sport of triathlons. That would take away the barriers of equipment, training, coaching and financial assistance to get to the race. It also truly builds confidence and a strong sense of community. Receiving $10,000 for my organization will go so far and help show what these athletes are capable of. I’m honored to receive that grant knowing how much it’s going to impact what we do.
The Spun: Your charity, Dare2Tri, is one of the most inspirational ones I’ve seen. Can you tell me how that came about and why it’s so important to you?
MS: I co-founded it with two others in 2011. I’m an athlete with a physical disability, I’m missing my leg. The two co-founders with me had been involved in adaptive athletics their whole lives. So realizing the important of athletics in everyone’s life, especially someone with a disability, helps give people self-confidence. We had a modest goal of getting 20 athletes at the starting line in our first year. People came out of the woodwork. Ten years later, we’ve served over a 1,000 athletes and have encountered their families as well. They never thought they’d be a triathlete yet here they are. This is definitely one of my proudest accomplishments.
— A+E Networks (@AENetworks) July 23, 2021
The Spun: How different was it preparing for this year’s event compared to others because of COVID-19?
MS: I think, obviously, the amount of COVID-19 protocols and testing is one thing. For a few months, the facilities at the training center were closed. We had to get out and do stuff on our own. They’ve been open under strict protocols for the past few months, so we’re only allowed a certain amount of people in specific rooms for a period of time. Our training schedule might look a little bit different, but the training is still there.
The Spun: When you compete in the Paralympic Games, do you feel like you can use your platform to inspire the next generation of athletes going through hardships?
MS: Absolutely. If there’s a little girl missing her leg like I am, her and her family won’t know what her life might be like. But if they look on TV and see the Paralympic Games, they might be hopeful for the future and see that there are so many things they can do in life. Being able to give the next generation hope is the cherry on top when it comes to the benefits of competing in the Paralympic Games.
The Spun: You were involved in a collision back in July. Were you worried it would affect your status for the Paralympics?
MS: Definitely. I hit a tree while on my bike. Fracturing your back is definitely not ideal, especially when you’re eight weeks out from a race you’ve been training for over the past three years. Yes, I was very worried. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Luckily, I’m able to swim and use my bike. I missed a few weeks of training, but I will be in Tokyo and will be on that starting line. Hopefully, adrenaline will take over. It could’ve been so much worse, so I’m thankful that I’m still able to walk and be there in Tokyo.
The Spun: How do you get over that hurdle?
MS: It’s hard. When it happened, and I’m still not fully healed yet, all the doctors said you need time. I kept saying ‘I don’t have time. I can’t just sit around and rest.’ It was hard mentally for sure. Every day, I feel like I’m having some breakthroughs and the pain is decreasing. You need to string together little wins as they come and just keep stacking them.
The Spun: Does the injury change your personal goals for the Paralympic Games?
MS: Best-case scenario: I make the podium. That is still very much the goal. After the back injury, I need to be realistic. The realistic goal is to race to my capacity, enjoy it, and cross the finish line with a smile. I would love to end up on the podium though. I still have high hopes I can pull it off.
The Spun: Are there any people in particular you’ll be racing for this year?
MS: Oh, absolutely. I have two kids and they’re going to watch me on TV. I want to do well for them, whether that’s being on the podium or being able to give them a big smile on camera. That’s a huge inspiration. I was wounded in the military over in Iraq and a lot of soldiers didn’t make it back. I’m racing for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I’m also racing for my sponsors who believe in me, like P&G. I’m doing it for everyone, including myself.
Ready to represent. 🇺🇸
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 4, 2021
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will begin on Aug. 24 and run through Sept. 5. We’ll find out then if Stockwell can make the podium yet again.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.