US 400m hurdler Kerron Clement (© Getty Images)
Olympic 400m hurdles champion Kerron Clement has enjoyed a long and successful career. Yet the greatest sense of pride he felt was making the US team against all the odds at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
From hospital bed to US Trials podium in five months
“My greatest challenge would be overcoming surgery in February 2012 and making the US Olympic team for the London Games later that year. I hadn’t hurdled at all following surgery up until a few weeks before the US Trials, and I really didn’t know if I would make the team. Yet I made up my mind that I was going to make the team regardless. Without doubt, that was my greatest challenge.
“I had struggled with injury for some time and I had a choice to face either an injection or surgery on my groin. For me, I didn’t want to feel the pain again, so I underwent surgery. I was fortunate to have the very best surgeon for the job and he advised me post-surgery to walk as soon as I could. I remember initially going out for four to five-mile walks with my mom in Florida on my road to recovery.
“Following surgery, I felt like my groin needed to be cracked, but my therapist was afraid to do it because he didn’t want to hurt me or mess anything up after the operation. However, the problem fixed itself naturally. I slipped in the bathroom around April of that year, but the way I slipped must have somehow cracked the groin and relieved the pain. It felt much better.
“I still had little time to lose and a little over a month before the US Trials I went down to Brazil to compete in some flat 400m races. I needed the races because I had still not hurdled since the surgery. I ran in a pair of 46.5s; it wasn’t fast, but a start.
“That first training session back hurdling for the first time since surgery, I was very hesitant. It was then that my coach, Mike Holloway, said to me, ‘trust yourself and land the hurdle the way you know you can’. I trusted in coach, let go and guess what? It did not hurt.
“Three weeks before the US Trials I ran in Clermont in my first 400m hurdles race since the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Korea. That day I ran 49.66. My coach was pleased. I was ready to run at the Olympic Trials.
“Running in Eugene proved quite emotional. I’d been through surgery and approaching the last hurdle I was outside of the top three places – which would guarantee a spot on the US Olympic team. At that point I thought I haven’t gone through the surgery and all the rehab not to be in the top three, so I dug deeper and just beat Bershawn (Jackson) to the line by 0.05 to take third in 48.89.
“When I realised I had made the team, I just started crying. Later that year at the London Olympic Games, I remember telling my room-mate I don’t care what happens in the race, I don’t care if I come last, because whatever happens, to have made the final after all the adversity I had been through felt like a million dollars to me. I finished eighth in that final, and in the mixed zone after the Olympic final in London, I broke down with tears of happiness.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF