City leaders Honor Local Paralympic Gold Medalist – Rick Langenberg

When you are faced with a life-threatening injury, personal tragedy or any adverse situation, confront these obstacles head-on, even if you have to make a few adjustments on the way, such as relearning how to walk.

And you will always combat a lengthy dark period, when you feel the world is against you and when you are cursing your fate.

These are some of the words of advice and wisdom advocated by Paralympic Gold Medalist Shawn Morelli, who was honored last week by the Woodland Park City Council and many community leaders.

Morelli boldly displayed her gold medals she earned in the 2016 Brazil games during the Track Cycling, 3,000 meter race and the Road Cycling Women’s Time Trail. She also talked informally with many residents and with leaders of the region’s prime cycling organization, Mountain Top Cycling Club, often providing a few training tips.

Morelli’s Paralympic victories marked an amazing journey for the former Army veteran, who suffered serious injuries in Afghanistan in 2007 from an explosion, while deployed as an engineer officer.

“It’s a process and journey,” admitted Morelli, in addressing a large audience of residents, in describing her recovery and eventual accession as a Paralympic star. Oddly enough, cycling was never part of her competitive, athletic life, as she mostly excelled in such sports as basketball, soccer and running.

But regardless of war-related injuries, the competitive spirit still prevailed with Morelli discovering new-found talents as a Paralympic cyclist, first gaining acclaim at the 2010 Warrior Games. She picked up the sport quickly and is now regarded as one of the top Paralympic cyclists in the world.

Morelli is eying a return to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Her schedule is now geared towards achieving that objective.

However, Morelli says her journey isn’t unusual, with many veteran, athletes and regular people having to overcome serious adversity. “Everybody has obstacles in their life. You just have to hit them straight on,” said Morelli.

But she is the first to admit the process isn’t easy, and contends she confronted several years of extremely dark periods.

Morelli, who hails from western Pennsylvania, an area of the country that views their sports like a mini-religion, stated that her hardest pursuit dealt with relearning familiar skills. “I almost had to learn to walk again. It was a challenge.”

Morelli, though, adopted a training regimen that rivaled anything from a major Olympic athlete.

Her story definitely captured the attention of the council and city staff, who has dealt with their own adversity the last few months with adopting a budget for next year.

The city of Woodland Park, through head manager and Army veteran David Buttery, has established a strong relationship with Ft. Carson’s 4th Engineer Battalion. Morelli’s husband, Lt. Col. Carl Dick Morelli, is the 4th Engineer Battalion’s commander. Buttery closely followed the Paralympic events, was ecstatic to welcome Morelli back to Woodland Park.