'Never Known Anyone Who Is as Mentally Tough': Grandma, 58, Makes Olympic Team for Race Walking

A Pennsylvania grandmother is headed to the Olympics — for a sport she previously retired from! Michelle Rohl, a distance runner turned racewalker from Wisconsin, previously competed for Team USA in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, but retired from the sport over two decades ago to homeschool her five kids, The Morning Call reported

Published Time: 30.06.2024 - 20:31:05 Modified Time: 30.06.2024 - 20:31:05

A Pennsylvania grandmother is headed to the Olympics — for a sport she previously retired from!

Michelle Rohl, a distance runner turned racewalker from Wisconsin, previously competed for Team USA in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, but retired from the sport over two decades ago to homeschool her five kids, The Morning Call reported.

Now 58, Rohl, who just welcomed her first grandchild three months ago, has returned to the sport with a vengeance, competing in the 20-kilometer race walk in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Saturday, June 29 — and qualifying.

Michelle completed the walk, which was held in Springfield, Oregon, in just over an hour and 42 minutes, a time that earned her third place overall, the Pennsylvania newspaper reported.

And it was no easy feat. Michelle — who finished 20th at the Olympics in 1992, 14th in 1996 and 17th in 2000 — trains every single day, clocking a total of 45 miles per week at an 8-minute-per-mile pace, she told The Morning Call.

She has also powered through several injuries. Michelle suffered a concussion last year after tripping and hitting her head on a curb toward the end of a race, and then, three weeks ago, split her chin during a race in Toronto.

But, with the Olympic trials on the horizon, she persisted. “I just said, ‘I have to stay on my feet and keep going forward,’ ” the athlete told the newspaper. “I was glad to be done, really. It would have been more rewarding if I wasn’t just trying to stay up for the last two laps.”

Speaking with The Morning Call, Michelle’s husband, Michael Rohl, said, “I’ve never known anyone who is as mentally tough as her."

Michael, 59, added. “She likes to run, she likes to compete, and it’s a lifestyle for both of us. It makes her ha -

ppy, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.”

And though her “retirement” from race walking is over, Michelle said she has no regrets about talking time away from the track to teach her kids, who are now ages 33 to 18.

"My middle daughter was like, ‘Mom, you were a really good athlete. Then you had kids,’ ” she told The Morning Call. “‘And then we all grew up, and you’re a great athlete again. I think we were the reason.’ ”

But Michelle "wanted to" take a leave of absence from the sport, she said, adding, "I was ready for a break and I wanted that part of my life."

Never miss a story — sign up forPEOPLE's free daily newsletterto stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

At Saturday’s Olympic trials, where she was the oldest athlete competing, the grandmother did not expect to perform the way she did decades ago, she told The Morning Call.

But now, Michelle, who set the American mile record for women in her age group last year, is headed to the Olympics for performing how she does now — with the support of Michael and the rest of her family.

“I told her, ‘You have to do this because you might inspire some other people to keep going,’” Michael said. “‘Like who does this? The answer is, no one else has. So just go do it and have fun doing it because you can.’ "

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.com and come to PEOPLE.com to check out ongoing coverage before, during and after the games. Watch the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, beginning July 26, on NBC and Peacock.

Related Articles

Follow Us