COLORADO SPRINGS — A local athlete is proving to the world that having a disability doesn't have to hold you back. She's training to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics happening in August.
Melissa Stockwell, a U.S. Army veteran, lost her leg in combat while serving overseas in Iraq in 2004. While the 40-year-old once defended our country, she's lacing up her shoes to train and represent the stars and stripes on the world's biggest athletic stage.
"I probably average five swims a week, three bikes, three runs, and then three strength sessions," said Stockwell, which adds up to about 15 hours of training.
Stockwell competed in the 2008 Paralympics as a swimmer, then competed in the triathlon in the 2016 games. A triathlon is a race of swimming, cycling and running.
Despite her disability however, she's never let it defined who she is.
"I've always been optimistic. Instead of, "Oh I lost my leg," I say, "Oh I lost my leg, but I still have three other good limbs, what can I go out and do now?'"
Stockwell says she's able to compete at the professional level thanks to the help of Semper Fi & America's Fund, a national organization that has provided immediate assistance to more than 25,000 wounded veterans.
"(They were) helping fund my way to the races, so I can earn the points and in turn, make that dream become a reality," said Stockwell, who mentioned she's always seeing the glass half full and working toward her dream as a professional athlete.
"It gave me my life back, my self confidence, self worth and showed me how much ability is really in my disability," said Stockwell.
Now, the purple heart recipient is running toward her next goal. There are several races coming up in the spring and summer months. That's when Stockwell will find out if she qualifies for the big games.
"The goal is Tokyo and to be back on the podium," said Stockwell. "One of my favorite parts about it (the games) is putting on a USA uniform. It's empowering. It's incredible."
Stockwell and her husband also own Tolsma Stockwell Prosthetics, a business in Colorado Springs. They specialize in orthotics and prosthetic devices for youth, adults, athletes, wounded veterans and more. The two opened the business last year prior to the pandemic.
"I just want to give back to those who might have a disability similar to mine, just to help show them how much they still can do," said Stockwell.
Stockwell is a mother to two children, ages three and six.