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2008 Summer Olympics Profile: Melanie Roach

by Eric Gold, Olympic Editor

(Sports Network) - Aspiring Olympians sometimes find it difficult to juggle their daily schedules - from training, working a full-time job and maintaining a family life. That's taken to the Nth degree for weightlifter Melanie Roach.

The 33-year-old from Bonney Lake, WA, about 40 minutes southeast of Seattle, is going to compete at her first Olympics after a long road in two different sports.

A gymnast during her childhood, Roach dislocated her right elbow during a training accident while in high school. After reconstructive surgery, and at the urging of a gymnastics judge she knew, Roach decided to try weightlifting. That was in 1994. Four years later, Roach, the first U.S. woman to clean and jerk twice her bodyweight, was ranked No.1 in the nation. She was well on her way to the 2000 Olympics, but just three weeks before trials she suffered a serious back injury and underwent surgery to remove small fragments from her spine, keeping her from traveling to Sydney for the Summer Games.

Not only did she overcome that, but with three children, including one with autism, Roach has exhibited tremendous patience. She somehow finds time in her schedule to train while taking care of her children in a high-profile family. Her husband, Dan, holds office as a Washington state representative. Also, her mother-in-law, Pam Roach, is a state senator.

During her time at the Olympic Media Summit earlier this year, Roach described that when she travels to meets like world championships and other tournaments, it's like taking time off...a much different view held by the younger lifters.

"I'm traveling with these younger athletes and they're all exhausted from traveling," she said. "It's a vacation for me, even traveling because I'm not chasing these three little kids, I'm not juggling dinner and making sure they're on the bus on time. The list is endless."

There are three children in the Roach family - Camille, Drew & Ethan with each nearly two years apart in age. Drew, who is approaching six, has a mild case of autism, which puts mother and father to task each day.

"He has to be watched 24 hours a day," Melanie Roach said of Drew. "We have locks on all of our doors. You can't get out of our house without a key. You can't get into a bedroom without a key. We have to keep him out of all the rooms so he doesn't hurt himself. He really is like a one-year-old in a five- year-old's body."

Drew was diagnosed with autism at two and one of his favorite things to do now, according to Dan, is taking the cushions out of the liner in the sofa, something that can obviously get very messy.

"When he was first diagnosed it was easier for me to accept it," Dan Roach said. "For Melanie it really was devastating. Your son's not going to go to the prom, he's probably not going to move out of the house. It's either something that can tear a family apart or bring it close together."

In the case of the Roach family, it brought them closer than ever. Melanie is a member of "'Athletes Against Autism", which promotes awareness and finding the cause and treatments for the condition. Dedicating time to the cause, making sure her children are ready for school, creating meals, etc., it seems overwhelming.

"I was kind of on my own," Melanie Roach said. "My husband's profession, those were trying times. He's down in Olympia every day from 7, 8 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night, sometimes even later, so I'm on my own. It's hard to balance, but we have so much support. It's about priorities, but it works."

The support includes a lot of help from Melanie's mom.

"She actually lives with us part-time during the week just to help pick up things around the house, to keep my laundry going, make sure we have food. She helps prepare meals," Melanie said.

After missing the 2004 Olympics to start a family, Roach said this is her final opportunity for weightlifting glory and it couldn't come at a more opportune time as she grabs the bar in the 53kg category.

"This is my last dance," Roach said. "This is it, the end of my career and I have a chance to go back and finish it. It's such an exciting time for me."

07/17 16:54:09 ET