When 12-year-old Melanie Roach told her family that one day she would compete at the Olympics, no one really doubted her, according to her mother, Bonnie Kozoff, as reported in the Tacoma News Tribune.
Roach, now a 33-year-old mother of three living in Bonney Lake, Washington, has been carrying a very heavy load the last few years as she has been preparing to compete at the Beijing Olympics in weight lifting.
In addition to raising her three children, Ethan, 7, Drew, 5, and Cami, 3, she supports her politician husband, Dan, runs a gymnasium center and advocates for Autism Speaks. Her son Drew was diagnosed with autism in 2003.
Roach is a Mormon and will join a number of other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Beijing to compete at the 2008 Olympics Games.
Fellow Latter-day Saint and steeplechase athlete on the United States Olympic team, Josh McAdams, credits his missionary experience as a turning point in his athletic career and his life.
He told The Plain Dealer, “I thought running was everything my freshman year in college, and if I had a bad workout, that affected my attitude and mood the whole day.”
The Plain Dealer report continues, “That was in 2000, and later that year, he left Brigham Young University for a two-year Mormon mission in Thailand.”
“When I came back from my mission, I realized I had life goals and more of a perspective, and I knew what values I have and what is most important in my life. I have learned not to limit yourself,” he told the newspaper.
Other Latter-day Saint Olympians on the U.S. team include Lacey Nymeyer, 100-meter freestyle and 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay; Lindsey Anderson, steeplechase; Ryan Millar and Rich Lambourne, volleyball; Jake Gibb, beach volleyball; and Tairia Flowers, softball.
Jill Camarena, who recently underwent surgery for a herniated disc, will compete in the women’s shot put.
Niklas Arrhenius, who will represent the Swedish national team in the discus, is one of several Mormon athletes from around the world.
Steeplechase competitor Anderson says the Church’s health code — which advises against the use of alcohol, tobacco and other harmful substances — helps her to stay away from drugs and to run her best.
Anderson’s philosophy is shared by many other Mormon Olympians, past and present.
Peter Vidmar, who won a gold medal as a member of the United States gymnastics team in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as well as an individual gold medal on the pommel horse, where he scored a perfect 10, explained in a book titled Why I Believe: “I never experimented with drugs or alcohol. As an athlete I valued my health, but more important, my faith taught me to avoid all of those things.”