Athletics

How Michael Johnson Retained Hope Despite Stroke Which Left Him Unable To Walk

How Michael Johnson Retained Hope Despite Stroke Which Left Him Unable To Walk

In early September, to the shock of many, including himself, Michael Johnson - one of the greatest athletes of all-time - suffered a stroke following a training session.

Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, was just days shy of turning 51.

He has since recovered and, speaking to BBC, said he is "pretty much back to normal".

Two to three hours after beginning to feel that something was wrong, the former 200m and 400m world record holder was no longer able to walk or even stand. He also had little control of the fingers on his left hand.

"Initially, there was obviously fear, and sort of, what's my life going to be like from this point on?" said Johnson.

What sort of mobility am I going to have, or lack of mobility? Is my family going to have to take care of me? Am I going to be able to dress myself?

Amid a scary time for Johnson, he was told that his best chance was to begin physical therapy immediately. He did so two days after suffering the stroke.

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"Ironically, that first walk was about 200m. It took me about 15 minutes to cover that 200m. And, ordinarily, I'm sure that anyone in that situation would be disappointed. I wasn't, I was encouraged, and it's what encouraged me because with every step I could experience and feel some very tiny, very small incremental improvements.

"As a sprinter where wins and losses can be measured in hundreds and thousands of seconds, and you're dealing with tiny, tiny incremental improvements every day. I could recognise that and I got back to my room and I said to my wife, 'I'm going to make a full recovery and I'm sure of it. I'm going to make this recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before.'

"For the next few weeks, I went back into an Olympic mindset and focusing on having the best training session I can today and using it to be better and get better.

"I could regain co-ordination and balance which I had lost. I did not lose any strength. Then I was getting back to walking properly, then more dynamic exercises and then into running.

"It's been one of the most significant events of my life. It's been one of those experiences though as well, the way I've taken it any way that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It didn't kill me and so I'm sitting here today stronger."

Picture credit; Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

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