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Best wishes for an Olympian: Roach gets ready for the Games

Melanie Roach, right, autographs a T-shirt for Janice Harlor and her daughter Nikki at a rally for Roach before she departs for Beijing China to compete as a weightlifter. Harlor is the teacher for Roach’s son Drew. - Gary Kissel/Reporter
Melanie Roach, right, autographs a T-shirt for Janice Harlor and her daughter Nikki at a rally for Roach before she departs for Beijing China to compete as a weightlifter. Harlor is the teacher for Roach’s son Drew.
— image credit: Gary Kissel/Reporter

Community holds rally, warm send-off party for Beijing-bound Melanie Roach

Friends, family and dignitaries gathered Friday evening at Roach Gymnastics in Sumner to send Melanie Roach to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing with the best wishes of the community.

The 33-year-old Roach, a Bonney Lake resident, earned the No. 1 spot on the United States’ weightlifting team

May 17 in Atlanta. She will compete Aug. 10 in the Beijing Olympics.

Roach’s return to the world stage of weightlifting is a remarkable testament to her strength, both physical and mental.

After she was knocked out of the 2000 Olympic qualifying competition with herniated disc, it appeared her weightlifting career was ended. The back injury might have ended her dream in 2000, but not her desire and drive.

She is the oldest member of the weightlifting team and only one with three children.

Along with the challenges of the injury, her child, Drew, who is 5 years old, was diagnosed with autism when he was nearly 3 years old.

Despite the many hours involved in caring for Drew, her other two children and operating Roach Gymnastics, she found a way to fight back to the top.

Roach said her children and her husband, Dan, a state representative for the 31st District, played “a huge part” in her comeback.

“Thank you Dan for all the nights you didn’t sleep and for giving me this moment,” she said at the party Friday. “Thank you for giving me this chance to go back and pursue my dream.”

Melanie Roach was a gymnast at Auburn High School and switched to weightlifting after leaving gymnastics.

“My mother drove me one hour ever day to gymnastics,” Roach said. “It was those hours I spent in the gym that prepared me to be an Olympic weightlifter.”

Roach also credited her coach, John Thrush, as the person who kept her on the path to the Olympics.

“This is a long trip down a long hard road,” Thrush said. “She will get to do something that few get to do.”

At the send-off party, Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who represents the 8th Congressional District, read a statement of support for Roach that was entered into the congressional record. Mayor Dave Enslow presented her with a proclamation from the City of Sumner.

A beaming and emotional Roach signed hundreds of autographs and welcomed all who arrived to wish her the best.

“This is the most amazing experience ever,” Roach said. “This is a dream come true to go to the Olympics, and to share it with everyone is overwhelming.”

Roach said she will begin the trip to Beijing on Friday when she flies to San Francisco for credentials. Saturday she leaves for Beijing. Once in Beijing she will train for one week, then rest one week before competing.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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