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Trotter_DeeDeeSF-OlyTr12.jpgDee Dee Trotter, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials

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Olympic Team Berth Would Complete Comeback

As we sit in Hayward Field and marvel at the outstanding and seemingly-effortless performances of these spectacular track and field athletes, it is easy to be unmindful of the individual obstacles that many have had to overcome just to arrive at this gateway to Olympic participation. The athletes run, jump, and throw and we applaud their accomplishments - all while we are largely oblivious to their unobservable personal struggles.

Dee Dee Trotter is one of the most gifted and accomplished 400 meter runners on the planet. Early in her career, success came quickly and easily. In 2003, as a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Trotter made her first World Championship team and went on to win a gold medal as a member of the United States' winning 4 x 400 relay team. The following year she captured Olympic gold, running the leadoff leg in the final on USA's victorious 4 x 400 relay foursome. More gold followed in 2007 when Trotter, coming off her 49.64 PR win in the 400 meter outdoor national championship race, ran on the country's winning 4 x 400 relay squad in the World Championships in Berlin.

But in 2008, an Olympic year, her fortunes began to change. At first, a lingering and complicated knee injury - a broken bone chip in her left leg - was revealed when Trotter had a freakish mishap with an errant car door. Notwithstanding that pre-Trials setback, she nonetheless made the US team, but simply was not able to compete in Beijing.

The ensuing corrective surgery and rehabilitation proved to be more extensive than originally anticipated, making the road back to high level competition long and arduous. 2009 was a year of rehabilitation. Nagging injuries and accommodative training made 2010 - the targeted comeback year - a year of competitive disappointment.

But in 2011, Trotter slowly began putting the pieces back together. Encouraging slivers of improvement began to emerge as Trotter posted an outdoor 400 best of 51.17. By the end of the year, Trotter had moved to Orlando and was re-united with Caryl Smith Gilbert, her former coach. In that supportive environment, Trotter was able to re-establish the type of stable life style and training regimen that had been the foundation of her earlier success. "My coach and I have the type of relationship that a coach and athlete should have," notes Trotter. "She has baby-stepped me back. I have been running the best I have run my entire career."

Other critical pieces continued to fall into place. "Spiritually, I made a huge change when I moved to Orlando," says Trotter. "I have a good relationship with God. My spiritual foundation is the most important thing in my life. That is one of the things I value the most about moving to Orlando. Being in that situation where I am spiritually stronger only makes me a better athlete. My coach and my family are on the same page and everyone is working hard to make sure that I make this team."

And so this former Olympian is here in Eugene to learn if all of the rehab, all of the life changes, and all of the work will pay off with a ticket to London. Trotter has looked like her old self in the rounds of the 400. She glided through Friday's opening round, easily moving on with a controlled circuit in 51.64. In yesterday's semi-final, Trotter moved strongly down the final straightaway to close on Sanya Richards Ross and post an improved mark of 51.23. You sense that this comebacking veteran has not yet shown us her "A" game. With her knee fully healed, her life re-assembled, and her focus back on the 400, Trotter finds herself at the threshold of making her third Olympic team - an accomplishment that would signify that she is truly all the way back.

The importance of this moment is not lost on Trotter. "I am 29 and I am just not sure that 2016 will be there for me," she admits. "This could be my last shot. I need to give it everything I've got and put everything on the line." While there is little doubt that she will, there is no doubt that a third Olympic berth for Dee Dee Trotter would likely be just as sweet as those Olympic and World Championship gold medals she earned in earlier days.

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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