From zero to hero – taking back glory

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Feature - From Zero to Hero

Billions of seconds lead up to a single run, a jump or a throw that could decide whether you succeed or fail. In the world of athletics, there is no room for setbacks. Each and every athlete is vying to get to the top, so those who do get there have always got to watch their backs, with thousands dreaming of taking their spots. As the saying goes, the easiest part is getting to the top, the hardest part is staying there.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at 6 athletes who were dethroned but fought their way back to becoming the best in the world.

No. 6 Felix Sancheź

Felix SancheźFelix Sancheż is now a retired a track and field athlete, who represented the Dominican Republic. Specializing in the 400m Hurdles event, he held onto an unbelievable streak of wins, with 43 Gold medals from 2001 to 2004, including the 400m Hurdles Gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

After riding a wave of wins, Sancheż faced a tragic injury to his leg. Despite numerous rounds of treatment, the pain just would not fade and his biggest setback happened in 2008, when he failed to qualify for the Semifinals of the 2008 Olympics.

He was watching his career pass him by, feeling helpless but he kept at it. When everyone thought he was “getting too old for this” he kept going at it harder. 

After battling this injury and some more he encountered for years, he returned to the 2012 Olympic Games and qualified for the finals after 8 long years. At the end of 47.63 seconds, Sancheż stood gloriously victorious with a Gold medal around his neck. He’d waited 8 years and he wasn’t going to wait any longer.

No.5 David Rudisha

David RudishaRepresenting Kenya in Middle Distance running, David Rudisha caught the Athletics community by storm, creating a World Record in the Men’s 800m event in 2010. Rudisha was able to run a timing of 1:40.91sec, two years after setting the record to clinch the biggest win of his career, an Olympic Gold.

Rudisha received commendation for the “Track and Field Athlete of the year” for three consecutive years from 2010 – 2012. After all this fame and success, he was forced to face his demons in 2013 when he suffered a leg injury and was compelled to be away from the track for over a year.

Returning in 2014, Rudisha couldn’t find his usual rhythm. But with unrelenting effort and commitment he went on to win two more Gold medals at the highest level, one in 2015 at the IAAF World Championships and the other at the 2016 Olympic Games. 

Rudisha is the first and only person to ever run under 1:41 in the 800m event and he holds the three fastest, six of the eight fastest, and half of the twenty fastest times ever run in this event, making him arguably the greatest 800m runner the world has ever seen.

No.4 Justin Gatlin

Justin GatlinJustin Gatlin was a force to be reckoned with in the 100 and 200m sprint events, winning Gold at the 2004 Olympics and 2005 World Championships in the 100m.

Thing started to crumble around him after he was banned from the track for 4 years (2006-2010) for the use of a performance enhancing substance. After the 4-year lapse, Gatlin returned to competition and steadily improved in an extremely competitive field.

From the beginning of 2008, Usain Bolt dominated the sprinting arena, leaving no space for competitors to get near him. Between the 2012-2016-time frame, Gatlin gave Bolt a run for his money, but came up short on every occasion, finishing with Silver. 

2017 was Gatlin’s turnaround year, when he managed to push on from his second-place finishes and finally get his finish line picture ahead of Bolt at the World Championships.

No.3 Sebastian Coe

Sebastian CoeSebastian Coe is regarded as one of the greatest track and field athletes produced by Britain. His breakthrough performance was his record shattering victory at the 1980 Olympics, when he won Gold in the 800m event.

After a couple of years of fame and success, Coe only managed to bring home a Silver in the 800m at the European Championship in Athens, where he was a shoe-in to finish in 1st place. The next day British Doctors revealed that Coe was suffering from Glandular Fever among other illnesses.

Even though his career was completely taken over by his illness, he managed to qualify for the 1984 Olympics despite nobody giving him a chance.

Battling his illness and much scrutiny, Coe participated in the ‘84 Olympic Games and won the Silver medal in the 800m. Doing one better, he crushed the standing record in the 1500m event and clinched Gold to show the world what he was made of. He also remains the only athlete to win two consecutive 1500m titles to this date.

No.2 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceThe queen of sprinting, Jamaica’s pride Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was the Olympic Champion in 2008 and 2012 in the 100m while clinching her World title in 2009 and 2015 in the same event.

2016 was a bitter-sweet year for Fraser Pryce, as she was only able to clinch Bronze in the 2016 Summer Olympics. With that being the bitter reason to take a step back to regroup, she also found a sweeter reason to level the playing field. She and her partner decided it was time to start a family and she temporarily stepped away from the track to give birth to a baby boy.

After spending two more years with her son, she returned to the track in 2018 but was unable to find form in her individual events. Apart from a few medals from the relay team, she failed to bring home a single medal herself.

She took matters into her own hands and polished up her comeback a little more in the months that followed. Her efforts finally bore fruit in 2019 at the World Athletic Championship when she won a deserved Gold Medal in the 100m event after 5 years.

N0. 1 Mo Farah

Mo FarahMo Farah is the definition of “Never Give Up”. If anyone were so lucky to witness his comeback at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 10,000m race they’d know why he took the number 1 spot in our countdown.

Farah won a gold medal in the 10000m event at the Rio Olympics, making it the first time a Briton had won three Olympic Gold medals in athletics. After being accidently clipped on the back of the heel by American Galen Rupp in the 10th lap, Farah tumbled to the ground, but went on to win gold with a time of 27:08.92.

A week later, he went on to win his second Gold in the years’ Olympics, in the 5000m, taking home double merriments. 

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