One of the coolest stories of training camp season is happening in Detroit and Tokyo at the same time. Melissa Gonzalez, a Colombian-American athlete specialist in the 400m hurdles, qualified for the Olympic semifinals this Saturday. She's the spouse of Lions quarterback David Blough, whose support for her during training camp has been incredible.
David and Melissa both attended Creekview High School in Texas, where they met. They've known each other for almost a decade and have been married since March 2019.
Melissa was born in the U.S., however, her dad was born in Colombia, and dual citizenship allows her to compete for Colombia, an opportunity she embraces because "it gives me the opportunity to compete at this level; I probably wouldn't have made it if I ran for the U.S. because of the depth they have in every event," she told The Athletic a week ago.
Melissa ran a 55.37 during Friday's first heat of the 400 meter hurdles in the Olympics, her personal best and Colombia's record. Even though she won the 2021 South American Championships, her 55.68 mark was not enough to automatically qualify for the Olympics, as the requirement was a 55.40. However, she got an at-large bid as only 33 of the 40 athletes reached the mark needed to automatically qualify.
Blough, Lions watch and celebrate
A very cool sight on Friday was the Detroit Lions support for Gonzalez as she attempted to qualify for the semifinals. Head coach Dan Campbell wished her luck during a statement at the press conference.
"I want to wish Melissa Blough the best of luck tonight and David, for that matter,” Dan Campbell said. “We said something last night in the team meeting. I asked David, ‘When is Melissa running?’ He said 8:00, tomorrow night, and the team, man, they went crazy. So that was pretty cool. We’ll be watching her tonight.”
Several Lions members also sent her a virtual message on Friday:
Melissa Gonzalez has been a star for Colombia's athletics. She won four gold medals at the South American Championships during his career, twice in 2019 and twice in 2021 - her 55.68 posted earlier this year was Colombia's national record, surpassing her own mark of 55.73 in 2019, the fastest in 25 years by a Colombian athlete.
As she qualified for the semifinals, her 55.32 mark is once again a national record for her country. Melissa will be back running on Monday.