Jereem "The Dream" Richards came agonisingly close to completing a fairytale comeback from injury at the World Athletics Championships here in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday.
Richards finished fourth in the opening men's 400 metres semi-final heat in 44.76 seconds, the third fastest time of his career.
With just the top two progressing automatically to tomorrow's final, the Trinidad and Tobago track star's fate was uncertain. Norway's Havard Ingvaldsen made the wait a short one, clocking 44.70 for third spot in heat two. That run signalled the end of "The Dream's" Budapest 23 one-lap campaign.
With eight men facing the starter in the championship race, ninth spot overall in the semis was a bitter pill to swallow. Richards, though, was able to put his performance into perspective.
"It's a blessing to even be here running," the Point Fortin sprinter told the Express. "A lot of people questioned why I didn't run the final in the 200 in Senior Champs (on July 30).
"In running the heats," he explained, "I tore the fascia around my plantar fascia under my foot, and immediately that Sunday I went to Dr (Anyl) Gopeesingh, did PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment, went back to the US on Monday, and only did pool workouts and runs on the high jump mat for two weeks. I hadn't run until I got here so I came in hoping for the best."
On Sunday, the reigning world indoor 400m champion shook off the cobwebs, finishing third in his first round heat in 45.15 seconds to progress automatically.
Richards returned to the National Athletics Centre yesterday for his semi-final heat. He battled hard, but had to settle for fourth spot. Jamaican Antonio Watson and American Vernon Norwood produced personal best times of 44.13 and 44.26 to finish first and second, respectively. South Africa's world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk was third in 44.65, and advanced on time.
"I hadn't run in two weeks prior to this competition," Richards explained. "From Senior Champs to the next week, I had no faith that I would have even been here. My mom prayed for me, my family prayed for me, my close circle prayed for me. As disappointed as I am to not make the final, it's a blessing from God to run and still do 44 seconds. But I won't lie, it hurts.