While the focus of the finish of the men’s 4x100m final at the 2016 Rio Olympics was on Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who had just run his final Olympic race and added yet another gold medal to his resume, a runner was down on the ground behind the celebration.
That runner was the United States’ Trayvon Bromell, who in his effort to finish third as the anchor of the U.S. relay team had torn his Achilles. He couldn’t walk and had to be taken off the track in a wheelchair. To make matters worse, Bromell’s effort to place third ultimately had meant nothing. His running mates, Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers, had exchanged the baton outside of the allotted zone, disqualifying the Americans from the event and taking a bronze medal out of their hands.
Flash forward five years later, Bromell is fully recovered from the Achilles injury that nagged at him for years. He enters the Tokyo Olympics as the man to beat in the 100m event, the same race he had finished dead last in at the 2016 Olympics. Winning the 100m final at last month’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials with a blistering 9.80-second time, the fourth-fastest in the world since the 2016 Games, Bromell looks primed to take home his first Olympic medal.
Bromell wasn’t sure if he would ever race in the Olympics again after 2016
Things didn’t go as planned for Bromell at the 2016 Olympics, and it got even darker in the time after. He had his post-Olympic surgery and spent two months in a boot. He didn’t do any rehab exercises for six months. Ten months after the Olympic 4x100m race, Bromell was eliminated in the first round of the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships. Something felt off, and Bromell started all over again with another surgery.
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This time, it was two years in between races for the runner. Then, in a 2019 race in Montverde, Fla., Bromell felt something in his leg. He thought it was his Achilles again, but it turned out to be a blown abductor muscle in his upper leg. His coach at Baylor University, Mike Ford, feared that Bromell may quit and never race again. Doctors told him he would never be able to run competitively again.
Bromell switched trainers from Ford to Rana Reider, who had worked with numerous athletes dealing with such injuries. Despite the doubts, Bromell never quit and is back to a dominant level.
Injuries have riddled Bromell’s career for years
While his Achilles injury, along with the subsequent recovery, has been the most significant injury in Bromell’s career, the track star has dealt with injuries his entire life.
In eighth grade, he broke his left knee doing a backflip. In ninth grade, he broke his right knee and his forearm while playing basketball. In 10th grade, he cracked his hip during a 100m race.
Leading up to the 2016 Games, Bromell dealt with a bone spur in his Achilles which was a factor in his poor performance in the 100m race and his Achilles eventually tearing. He then suffered the aforementioned blown abductor muscle during rehab from the Achilles injury.
Even with all of the setbacks in his life, Bromell has continued to push through.
Bromell almost quit track completely for football
Bromell dreamt of playing football in the NFL at a young age. So much so that he quit track for a bit in middle school in order to pursue football as a possible career.
In fact, Bromell had interest from colleges that wanted to recruit him to play football, West Virginia being one of them. He was a slot receiver in high school, but some of those injuries that Bromell dealt with ultimately led him to choose track instead. Bromell ended up taking a track scholarship at Baylor and left football behind him.
While at Baylor University, he almost tied Michael Johnson’s school record
Bromell took a track scholarship to run at Baylor University after winning Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2013. As a member of the Bears’ track and field team, Bromell won two NCAA championships -- the 100m event at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships and the 200m race at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships.
He was one NCAA championship shy of tying Olympic legend Michael Johnson’s school record for the most individual track and field titles, but he finished in second in the 100m event at the 2015 Outdoor Championships.