Every Olympic athlete has a story. Oftentimes, those stories are full of trials and tribulations they will tell you were worth it to get to achieve their Olympic dream.
Melissa Gonzalez is one of those athletes.
“It's something I have looked up to and I have always wanted to be part of,” Gonzalez said.
She’s talking about the Olympics. The 400-meter hurdler has had to clear several hurdles to get to this moment.
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“When I was in college [University of Texas-Austin], I didn’t have a super great career. It was a little disappointing. It didn’t pan out the way that I had hoped,” Gonzalez said.
Because of her performance in college, she knew she wouldn’t have times good enough to make Team USA. She then decided to use her dual citizenship, hoping to qualify to run for Colombia, where her father was born.
That qualification was met with yet another hurdle. Although she finished first in those qualifiers, her 400-meter hurdle time still wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Olympics. Soon after, she found out that wouldn’t matter and that she would have a spot in Tokyo. There had to be 40 women in the field for the first round and not enough made the Olympic standard. That meant Gonzalez was in and with the help of her Coach Sammy Dabbs, has been working and training ever since for this moment.
“I still I don’t think that it has hit me fully that I can race tomorrow [July 31] in the Olympics it felt like all my hard work had paid off and it's really exciting,” Gonzalez said.
She graduated from Creekview High School in the Carrolton Farmers Branch ISD in 2012, which is where she met her husband, David Blough. Blough is currently one of the backup quarterbacks for the Detroit Lions. She called it the perfect support system back home.
“I think it’s really special that we both compete at the highest level of our sport. We both understand the other one. Like if you have a bad practice, we understand that and work through it,” Gonzalez said.
Friday, Gonzalez advanced in the first round of the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
She'll compete again Sunday. The final is Tuesday.
Her family watched Gonzalez race Friday from their home in The Colony.
"Of course, we want to be there but we also have faith in her preparation," said Melissa's mom Temple Gonzalez.
Her coach, Sammy Dabbs, didn't make the trip to Tokyo, either, but has been texting with Gonzalez, coaching her "remotely."
It's the latest challenge they've faced during the pandemic.
"When COVID shut things down last year, the hardest part was finding an actual open track," Dabbs said.
They trained anywhere they could find, he added, including Standbridge Stadium in Carrollton, where Gonzalez trained in high school.
"The outpouring of support and excitement has just been non-stop," Temple Gonzalez said.