Grit and Grace
Megan Henry slides into the next chapter
Roxbury native Megan Henry follows her passion after overcomimg a life threatening illness.
Photo by Hector Pachas // Hair & Makeup by Komal Dhiman and Rocio Vasquez, bobby pins
Megan Henry of Roxbury is in Europe nursing the disappointment of narrowly missing a spot on U.S. Olympic Skeleton Team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Henry, who slides down icy tracks on a tiny sled with no brakes at nearly 80 mph, had remained in contention throughout Team USA qualifying—but she was a long shot. At the Bridgewater Village Store before Christmas, the five-foot, three-inch, 129-pound athlete—who played field hockey at American University and flirted with taking up bobsled—figured the U.S. women would only get two Olympic spots.
Olympian Katie Uhlaender seemed like a lock and Henry rested in fifth place at the end of 2017. Things brightened in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in early January. With blistering start times of 5.43 and 5.35 seconds, Henry finished eighth and fifth, her best results of the season. “Megan was awesome,” USA Skeleton coach Brian McDonald said at the time. The final competition was in Altenberg, Germany, on January 13, and the Olympic team was named January 15.
Making the team would have fulfilled a quest nearly extinguished by an unexpected hurdle—and not making means Henry, 30, must decide whether to set her sights on the 2022 Winter Olympics or focus on her career as a U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer and possibly transition into Olympic Masters Weightlifting.
In the spring of 2012, Henry was the U.S. national champion in skeleton, and in the fall of that year she was diagnosed with life-threatening pulmonary embolisms—blood clots in both lungs resulting from using NuvaRing birth control.
She was hospitalized for a week, and when released only allowed to walk ten minutes a day—after having been in the best shape of her life. “It was earth-shattering to me at the time,” says Henry, whose doctors told her, “You may never be an athlete again.” Merck reached a $100 million settlement with nearly 4,000 plaintiffs. Megan’s tiny share wasn’t any consolation.
“I was away from skeleton for an entire season. When I came back I was outside of the top ten,” she says. “The people who I was above kind of leap-frogged me.”
In the summer of 2013, Henry began training again and started sliding that fall, digging deep to regain lost ground. She credits her trademark grit to Shepaug Valley School in Washington and its Hall of Fame field hockey coach Jaye Stuart, and to her mother, Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry, “the example of hard work and dedication.”
Despite not making the Olympic team, Henry will be sliding in the U.S. national championships in March. Then decision time really comes. “It’s a hard one,” says Henry. “Going into this season I thought it would be my last. It’s hard to walk away from something where you feel like your potential hasn’t been met. Especially after all the years and everything that went into it.”