•  American War Hero
•  2016 Paralympic Medalist
•  3 Time World Champion
•  Leader
•  Mother

Melissa is the first female soldier to ever lose a limb in active combat and has been awarded both The Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Following her accident, sport become the road to recovery for Melissa. In April of 2008, she became the first Iraqi War Veteran to qualify for the Beijing Paralympics. She competed in three swimming events and was honored by her fellow Team USA athletes to be selected to carry the American flag in the closing ceremony. After Beijing, Melissa turned to the sport of Paratriathlon and is now a three time World Champion. She was named USA Triathlon’s female Paratriathlete Of The Year for two consecutive years and was twice nominated for an ESPY award.

Career Highlights                                                                                                                   

2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist, Paratriathlon
Three-time ITU Paratriathlon World Champion (2012, 2011, 2010)
10-time World Paratriathlon Event medalist (3 golds, 5 silvers, 2 bronzes)
Four-time USA Paratriathlon National Champion (2018, 2013, 2012, 2011)
Five-time ITU Paratriathlon World Cup medalist (4 golds, 1 silver)
2013 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships silver medalist
2015 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships bronze medalist
Completed her first IRONMAN in Arizona on Nov. 17, 2013
2008 U.S. Paralympic Team, Swimming


After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002, Melissa Stockwell was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army’s transportation corps. One month after being deployed to Iraq, in April 2004, she became the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb in active combat after her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. She was later honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her service. Four years later, she became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games, competing in swimming at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. She was selected to be the flag bearer for Team USA at the Beijing closing ceremonies.

After Beijing, Stockwell shifted her focus to triathlon because she enjoyed the variety that it gave her.  She made her elite ITU debut in 2009, and went on to earn three consecutive world titles from 2010-2012. In 2016, she earned a spot on the inaugural U.S. paratriathlon team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, which featured the sport as a medal event for the first time. She earned a bronze medal in the PTS2 category, sharing the podium as part of a U.S. sweep with silver medalist Hailey Danz and gold medalist Allysa Seely.

Stockwell is a co-founder of the Chicago-based Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club with Keri Serota and Dan Tun. She is a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach, and serves as a mentor and friend to her fellow Dare2tri athletes as they train and compete. She also serves on the board of directors for the Wounded Warriors Project, USA Triathlon Foundation, and the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee. She is a licensed prosthetist but is currently training for triathlon full-time at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One of her pre-race rituals is that she always has to eat gummy worms the night before a race. She is married to Brian Tolsma and has two children, Dallas and Millie.

Elite Triathlon Career

2021: Opened the season with a win at the World Triathlon Para Series event in Leeds, England, her first victory at that level since 2015 • Earned bronze at the World Triathlon Para Series Leeds on June 5 • Took bronze at the Americas Triathlon Para Championships Pleasant Prairie on June 27

2020: Won a silver medal at the Devonport ITU World Paratriathlon Series event on Feb. 29

2019: Earned silver at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships on March 9 • Placed 5th at the ITU World Paratriathlon Series event in Yokohama, Japan, on May 18 • Won the Magog ITU Paratriathlon World Cup on July 13 • Earned silver at the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships on July 20 • Won back-to-back gold medals at the Banyoles (Sept. 8) and Funchal (Oct. 20) ITU Paratriathlon World Cup events

2018: Started the season strong in March with a silver medal at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships • Won gold at the Eton Dorney ITU Paratriathlon World Cup on May 28 • Earned a win at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, on June 30 • Earned two consecutive fourth-place finishes at ITU World Paratriathlon Series events in Iseo-Franciacorta, Italy, in June, and Edmonton, Alberta, in July • Placed seventh at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, on Sept. 12

2017: Won a silver medal in October at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup, two months after giving birth to her second child

2016: Won a bronze medal as part of a U.S. podium sweep in the women’s PT2 division at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, alongside gold medalist Allysa Seely and silver medalist Hailey Danz • Earned silver medals at the Aguilas ITU World Paratriathlon Event and the Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships

2015: Earned bronze at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Chicago • Reached the podium four times at ITU World Paratriathlon Events, including a gold in Detroit, silvers in Rio de Janeiro and Yokohama, and a bronze at Sunshine Coast • Placed second at the Monterrey CAMTRI Triathlon American Championships

2014: Collected a silver medal at the Chicago ITU World Paratriathlon Event

2013: Won silver at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in London • Earned victories at the San Diego ITU World Paratriathlon Event and the USA Triathlon Paratriathlon National Championships

2012: Earned her third consecutive world title at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Auckland

2011: Defended her world championship crown at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Beijing

2010: Earned her first world title at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Budapest


Baghdad to Beijing and Beyond

Melissa talks about overcoming obstacles, perseverance and living life to its fullest.

Melissa fully believes that anyone can do anything that they put their mind to and hopes her audience walks away with a greater appreciation of life and an ‘I can do anything’ attitude.


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