REACHING OLYMPIC STAGE

Her dream fulfilled, Melanie Roach intends to relish every step of the way as she prepares for China and the Olympics.

Melanie Roach holds her daughter Camillle

Roach shoulders the load, earns long-awaited spot on U.S. team

Her dream fulfilled, Melanie Roach intends to relish every step of the way as she prepares for China and the Olympics.

“It has been an amazing journey,” said Roach, fresh off her Summer Games-clinching performance at the U.S. weightlifting trials in Atlanta last weekend.

“I still can’t believe it

happened.

“Now that is has, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

The 33-year-old mother of three from Bonney Lake came home to a tidal wave of congratulations, hugs and tears this week. Her gymnastics center in Sumner is abuzz, her phone seldom silent, her daily calendar cluttered with requests. She is a national media darling.

And the Beijing Games are 11 weeks away.

“For me, it’s just an honor to be there,” said Roach, an Auburn High School graduate and former gymnast. “To be able to go as the No. 1 (ranked U.S. lifter) is a bonus, it’s amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Roach’s berth to Beijing comes after considerable pain and persistence.

She missed the 2000 Sydney Games because of a back injury. She took a five-year hiatus before deciding to get back into the game. After successful surgery, she gradually regained her strength and ultimately, her top form.The Olympics became a good possibility after Roach captured her eighth national title in March.

At Atlanta, she was at her best, compiling her finest two-lift total in 10 years. The 117-pound Roach pulled 178 pounds from the floor in the snatch before nearly clearing 240 pounds in the clean and jerk. She missed on her final attempt at 244 pounds, but that’s for another day.

“She was so dominant, it was ridiculous. Nobody else had a chance against her,” said John Thrush, Roach’s coach ever since he discovered the raw talent 14 years ago at Auburn High School.

“It was an amazing weekend, a wonderful experience,” said Thrush, who has coached several world-class teams throughout his distinguished career. “Everything went exactly as planned. We didn’t have any falters in training, and she stayed healthy. It was a perfect scenario.”

Roach found relief and gratification in joining Carissa Gump, Natalie Woolfolk and Cheryl Haworth on the U.S. Olympic team.

“To not make it in 2000 makes this much sweeter,” Roach added.

Memorable moment

Afterward, an emotional Roach was smothered by a throng of family and friends who made the trip to Georgia, including husband Dan. She remained composed until she was sandwiched by a hug from her young children.

“Then I just cried,” Roach said. “What a great moment.”

When Thrush finally met Roach, they both broke down.

“It was so emotional,” she said. “I told John, this (performance) was for you.

“This wasn’t about me,” Roach added. “This was about all those who helped me get this far.”

Now, Roach is setting her sights on staying healthy while peaking at the right hour as she heads to China for the Aug. 8-24 Summer Games.

A medal is a possibility, she says, if she can reset her own American records.

Roach, however, will be heading to Beijing without her coach. USA Weightlifting appoints its own Olympic team coach. Personal coaches are not allowed to go, a controversial and upsetting situation for Roach and Thrush.

“It is disappointing,” Thrush said. “This is what I do for a living. This is a culmination of a lot of work. I think I’ve earned that spot. Due to politics and (other factors),

I feel like I’ve been robbed of the opportunity.”

Thrush doesn’t believe the situation will change.

“I can’t see it happening,” he said. “Too many things are happening behind the scenes, too many self-interests behind the scenes to not allow people to do the right thing.”

Instead, Thrush will have Roach primed and poised to compete in China. He will be watching from afar.

“That’s my job … to get her ready,” he said. “I’ll be there in spirit. That’s all I can do.”

Supporters can help Melanie Roach’s trip to Beijing for the Olympics by helping the family with training and travel expenses. The public can contribute by

mailing donations to: Melanie Roach Fund (through Bank of America), 19321 State Route 410 E., Bonney Lake, WA 98391, or by visiting melanieroach.com

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