Two-time Olympic medalist now a high school counselor

Jacob Frazier, Editor

With sweat rolling down her face and a shaky breath rattling through her chest, Melissa Howard passed over the finish line smiling, knowing she won her second Olympic bronze medal.

Mrs. Howard, a former back-to-back Olympic medal winner, now works as the House of Strength counselor. Even though, she has two Olympic medals under her belt, she never intended to become a hurdle racer in the first place.

“I didn’t start hurdle racing ‘til sophomore year, and I was originally just a sprinter,” Mrs. Howard said. “My mom didn’t want me to jump over the obstacles, because she thought I would get hurt. Then one day, I was just practicing and playing around with the hurdles, and the coach happened to see me. And at the next meet I was in the hurdle races.”

Since her sophomore year, Mrs. Howard trained and prepared herself for the US Olympic trials.

“So going into the final race, I knew that if I placed in the top three I would go to the Olympic games,” Mrs. Howard said. “When I crossed the line and I was in third place, I knew that I made it. It was an unbelievable feeling, looking back when I was younger and I watched the Olympics on the TV, and looking at the people I idolized, I could not believe that I would go to the Olympics.”

Going to the Olympics, however, was just the beginning of her legacy.

“Its kind of hard to put into words, but if you sit and think about it, people glamorize the gold medal,” Mrs. Howard said. “If you actually think about it, you’re number three in the whole entire world. I am the only person in the world that can say that I am number three from the 2000 and the 2004 Olympic 100 meter hurdles.”

After all that honor and glory, Mrs. Howard was happy to give it up for something more important to her.

“Well I was ready to start my family, but I also did a lot of travelling for the Olympics,” Mrs. Howard said. “So for me to be gone to Europe for three or four weeks at a time, and having a family just wasn’t going to work. So, my last Olympic games was in 2004 and I actually got married that same year, so my last Olympics was in August, and I got married in October. So I topped my Olympic medal off with marrying the love of my life.”

Looking back on this after seven years of retirement, Mrs. Howard still believes she made the right decision of leaving the Olympics to start her family.

“Oh no no no, I look at my two little precious boys and I see my husband every day and I know I made the right decision,” Mrs. Howard said. “I have no ­­­regrets at all about what I did. No regrets at all.”

Though she never second-guesses her decision, she still reflects on all her achievements and glory.

“I am the third fastest person in the world and I’m the only one with a bronze medal from the 2000 and the 2004 Olympic games,” Mrs. Howard said. “I’m the only person in the world that can say that, and that’s pretty awesome.”