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Swimmer in a pool

Get to know: 2016 Paralympic Hopeful, Three-Time Paratriathlon World Champion and Chicago Resident Melissa Stockwell

June 07, 2016

Swimmer in a pool

Get to know: 2016 Paralympic Hopeful, Three-Time Paratriathlon World Champion and Chicago Resident Melissa Stockwell

June 07, 2016


How does Melissa Stockwell bring it home? By proudly representing Chicago as a three-time paratriathlon world champion, U.S. Army veteran and 2016 Paralympic hopeful. In March 2004, Melissa deployed to Baghdad, Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division. On April 13, 2004, on a routine convoy, Melissa became the first female soldier to lose a limb in active combat when a roadside bomb hit her Humvee. Her left leg was amputated above the knee.

After a year of multiple surgeries and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Melissa was medically retired from the Army. She was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her courageous service. Following retirement, Melissa turned to athletics. In April 2008, she became the first Iraqi War veteran to qualify for the Paralympics as a swimmer in the 100 freestyle, 400 freestyle and the 100 butterfly and was selected to carry the American flag in the Beijing closing ceremonies.

After the 2008 games, Melissa turned to paratriathlon and has been part of the national team for the past three years. This year, when the sport makes its debut in Brazil, Melissa hopes to be there. She puts it best: She’s done more with one leg than she ever imagined she’d do with two. We’re proud to call Melissa a member of Chicago’s Team!

Typical training schedule: Melissa says every day is different, but it usually consists of two to four hours of training a day and can be a mix of swimming, biking, running and strength training. She may take a day off a week, not every week, but she’s sure to fit in recovery as well. 

Eating habits while training: Melissa balances carbs, fat and protein while training. Her favorite snacks are Chobani yogurt, banana with peanut butter, and smoothies. She admits that she does have a sweet tooth, so she does still have a nightly dessert.

Chicago roots: Melissa moved to Chicago in 2007 and it quickly became home. She’s lived in a few different neighborhoods, but moved to a duplex in Ukranian Village in March of 2014. Chicago has been home for Melissa longer than anywhere else and she says she doesn’t want to be anywhere else!

Favorite thing about Chicago: Melissa loves that Chicago is a big city with a small town feel. She loves the lake, the skyline, the weather (even the winter!), the people, the constant movement, and the fact that there’s always so much to do.

Favorite Chicago food: Pequod’s Pizza and Chicago hot dogs. 

Plan a day touring Chicago: If Melissa were taking a friend around the city, she’d want it to be one of Chicago’s perfect spring days. She’d start with breakfast at Milk and Honey on Division Street, and then head to the lake for a bike ride. She’d be sure to stop at Millennium Park and then take her friend on the Architectural Boat Tour before lunch at Pequod’s Pizza. Then, Melissa would be sure to head to Bucktown and Wicker Park for some local shopping and would end up at a concert on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion with a picnic basket for dinner. After the concert, she would make a stop to Forever Yogurt for dessert and then finish with a drink near home. 

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