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Injured Jamaican won't let 'life's work' go to waste

Injured Jamaican won't let 'life's work' go to waste
Posted at 9:31 PM, Jul 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-25 03:14:55-04

We've all seen the indelible images, equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Nearing the finish line, a runner goes down, dreams of glory dashed in a split-second by the body's betrayal.

A fellow competitor sees it unfold in front of her and ... stops. Helps the other get to her feet, and off they go, staggering toward the finish line together in a scene that calls to mind three-legged sack races at a family reunion.

Now that's glory.

Jamaican 1500m runner Aisha Praught-Leer's story is similar in many ways, but Praught-Leer, 31, is different.

Born in Molina, Illinois and raised by two white American parents, she has dual citizenship. Her biological father is a Jamaican reggae musician with whom her mother had a relationship for several years, and the relationship ended after her mother returned to the United States to give birth. She re-married four years after Aisha's birth, and in 2013, Aisha travelled to Germany to meet her birth father for the first time. She then decided to represent Jamaica to honor her heritage.

That's pretty different, no? 

So despite having torn the meniscus in one knee -- tore it right off the bone -- during training last Sunday, she'll be trying to cut out the middle man, determined to take to -- and leave -- the track in Tokyo under her own, clearly considerable power.

Shortly after the injury, Praught-Leer took to Instagram and posted with proud defiance. Calling it a "freak, shocking accident," Praught-Leer said she "heard and felt a painful pop, but then proceeded to do one of the best workouts of my life."

Hoping she'd dodged a bullet, Praught-Leer instead got the news that her MRI made it clear: surgery required, asap.

Praught-Leer will get the surgery. Just not now. Not before she runs again.

"This is my life's work, my purpose and my first true love," she wrote. "I am heartbroken."

Broken for now, sure. But Praught-Leer isn't beaten. If there were medals awarded for courage in the face of personal devastation, she'd be rocking gold come the Closing Ceremony.

"I will line up in Tokyo," she wrote. "When I arrive I'll get the fluid drained from my knee and get a cortisone injection (this is legal, and my surgeon understands and supports me in this)."

"I want to keep believing in the possibility of achieving the wild dreams I store deep in my heart. The reality is they will not happen in Tokyo; running to my ability is simply not possible on a knee without stability. This is the most challenging reality I have faced in my career.

"All of my silent work, the beautiful, hard-earned fitness, does not have a chance to see the light of day. The triumph I have visualized so vividly is — poof — gone in one step."

And yet when her event lines up on the starting blocks, Praught-Leer said she will be there.

"You will see me smiling in Tokyo with Jamaica on my chest," she wrote, "because the honor of representing my country is one of the greatest I've had in my little life."

(Reporting by Omar Mohammed of Reuters)

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