In Sunday's women's weightlifting event at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, American Melanie Roach will try to even the score with the Chinese woman who won today. And lifting up this Washington State mother to victory will be her three young children, cheering her on.
At just 5-foot-1 and 117 pounds, it's hard to picture that this petite woman from Tacoma is an Olympic weightlifter. She is also the mother of three youngsters, a politician's wife and a business owner.
Melanie Roach plans to break a record in Beijing, which also marks her first trip to the Olympic Games. "You know you imagine it to be a certain way and it's so much better than I imagined," she said. "Seeing all the other countries, all the other different sports. The venue is amazing."
Melanie plans to lift 250 pounds to win her event. She says that no one ever accurately guesses her sport.
"The first thing they say is: Are you a gymnast or a soccer player? They never guess weightlifter," she said.
She's perfectly content to break the classic mold. She's the only mother of three on the U.S. women's weightlifting team, which she says is a role she cherishes even more than the role she plays as an athlete in Beijing. In fact, she says the hardest part about being in Beijing so far are the two weeks she has already spent away from home.
Her son Drew is autistic and she says he is a big reason why she's here, because of the lessons she learned when motherhood threw her a curve.
"You don't realize the dream you have for your child may never occur," Melanie said. "And when you come to grip with that and you realize you need to love them for who they are, your perspective and love for them can grow so much."
She says she doesn't worry too much about the future, but tries to enjoy the now. That's what her son has taught her, she says.
Melanie's husband is in Beijing to watch her compete. But while we met with her, she learned that security is so tight here she won't get to see him. Not yet at least.
But back home, the rest of her family and friends and fans will be in front of their TVs tomorrow night. Her inspiration, little Drew, among them.
"I'm going to make sure that he will be in front of the TV when I'm lifting, so that he can know where his Mommy is. I just want them to know I'm proud to be their mom and I'm over here to represent them. I'm so excited to be here," Melanie said.
And on Sunday night in the Women's 53kg weightlifting event, Melanie Roach will be contending for an Olympic medal to bring home to her biggest fans.