Olympic Weightlifter and World-Class Mom

On May 17 at the Olympic weightlifting trials in Atlanta, Ga., Melanie Roach successfully hoisted 228.8 pounds over her head, qualifying her to enter the Beijing Olympics this summer as America's number one weightlifter.

Her son, diagnosed with autism, took his first trip on an airplane to watch her compete against other Olympic hopefuls because Roach wanted him to be a part of the memory. Last Friday, "World News with Charles Gibson" reported on Roach's physical and personal challenges and triumphs as a world-class weightlifter, politician's wife and mother.

Squatting with 200 pounds of weights, Roach surprises many people with her ability in the gym.

"I definitely hear the gasp of, 'No way, you're not a weightlifter.' I hear that a lot," Roach says, smiling.


At 5 feet 1 inch and 117 pounds, Roach is one of the top weightlifters in the world. She is also the mother of three, a politician's wife, a small business owner and has a shot at the Olympics.

Visit Roach's Web site to learn more.

"Recently, I've clean and jerked 238," she said.

That's 238 pounds hoisted off the ground and over her head.

"I've actually done 242," she said. "I currently hold the American record from 10 years ago at 249."

That's the equivalent of lifting an NFL linebacker over her head.

Roach started her athletic career as a gymnast. At a meet, someone suggested she try weightlifting.

She excelled quickly, wining competitions and breaking records. But injuries kept derailing her goal of making the Olympic team.

Then in 2006, she had surgery to repair a herniated disk. She was back in the gym five days later. And she hasn't left.

"It is such a reward for me," she said. "At the end of the day, I get to look forward to working out. I get the best of both worlds. I wish every mother had the opportunity to get that break every day."

Injuries were not the only thing that impeded Roach's Olympic dream. Her 5-year-old son Drew was diagnosed as autistic three years ago.

Click here for resources on living with autism or living with someone who has been diagnosed with autism.

"It was difficult to make that transition into accepting that our child may not do certain things," she said. "He might not be able to get married. He might not be able to have a job or go to college. Even the simple things. He may never have friends that he chooses to have."

During that time of learning to accept who her son was, Melanie sought the help of her bishop.

"I remember praying that he would recover, and I admit I struggled with a little bit of depression. It literally was a broken heart," Roach said. "And I remember going into my bishop. I said, 'Bishop, this is not what I signed up for.' And I was in tears, and I was obviously struggling. He looked at me with a smile and infinite wisdom [and said], 'Melanie, this is exactly what you signed up for.'"

From that moment, Melanie stopped praying for a cure and started praying for the strength to handle the challenges she and her family faced.

"The experience that I had in the bishop's office is what helped change my perspective," she said. "And I really believe it's because of being the mom I am to Drew that I'm able to go into the weight room and literally live in the moment."

Roach said lifting weights is the easiest part of her day.

"I stopped worrying about all the things he wouldn't become and started enjoying who he was," she said, smiling. "I'm grateful I finally figured out how to truly enjoy the journey."

Roach will compete at the Olympic trials in Atlanta a week from Saturday. And Drew will be there to cheer her on. It will be his first trip on an airplane, which will likely be difficult. But Melanie told us she wants him to be part of the memory.

ABC News' Saira Anees contributed to this report.