The U.S. Army veteran lost her left leg in April 2004 when, a month into her deployment to Iraq, her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, making her the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat. She was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart—and four years later she became the first Iraq War vet to compete in the Paralympics, swimming in Beijing and serving as the United States’ flagbearer in the Closing Ceremony.
She then decided to focus on the triathlon, enjoying the variety of activity, and she earned bronze in Rio as part of an American medal sweep in the event. The mother of two is also founder of Dare2Tri, which supports triathletes with disabilities.
Stockwell’s picking up the flag once again in Tokyo, this time sharing the honor with Chuck Aoki in the Opening Ceremony, and the 41-year-old is just grateful to be there, less than two months removed from a bicycle crash in early July that left her with fractured L2 and L3 vertebrae and a bruised pelvis.
“I like to think I’m tough but man, trees hurt!” she quipped on Instagram in announcing her very temporary physical setback.
“Not much changes from the normal training,” Stockwell told Forbes just weeks later. “We’ve been in sort of a hard block of training and have had a [Team USA] pre-camp, but the training doesn’t taper down at all.”
Psychologically, she had a bit more to shake off, admitting to Distractify this month, “It hasn’t been easy. Mentally it was hard. For a few weeks it was so painful…I was literally sitting on the couch and my workout for the day was to just sit there and let myself heal.” But no matter what happens in Tokyo, Stockwell was intent on seeing “this dream through to completion.”
“I push myself and see what I can do,” she said. “If that, in turn, inspires the next generation…that’s just kind of the added bonus to all of it. The hope is that everyone realizes how much choice they have in their own life and the things that they’re capable of doing and they get out there and see.”
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