Gonzales determined to resurrect athletics career
"I'm still here, I'm still training; and once I'm fit and healthy, I'm still one of the best in the world, so look out."
Strong words from Jermaine Gonzales, a man who has not competed since pulling up during the 4x400m final at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
It has certainly been a tough two-and-a-half years for the quarter-miler; a period which saw him undergo two knee surgeries, including the removal of a bone tumour and multiple operations over a six-month spell. It sort of makes his caveat - 'once fit and healthy' - seem more like a fleeting wish than a promise.
Now 30, Gonzales, the national record holder over 400m with a 44.40 personal best, has carried his cross. But with a greater appreciation for his career, patience and determination, the sprinter is focused on carefully resurrecting his once-promising career.
The World Youth (2001) and World Junior (2002) bronze-medal winner has been training steadily since September last year, and is looking to return to competitive action in April, with a spot on Jamaica's team to the 2016 Olympic Games being his ultimate ambition.
"First of all, it's good to be back. It's a been a long two-and-a-half years. I'm happy with where I am. It's been tough, and I thank God that I am here again. This is my life," Gonzales told The Gleaner, shortly after a training session with his coach, Bert Cameron, at Stadium East.
"I'm not rushing it; my main focus is staying healthy this year and trying to run a respectable time. I'm not rushing to push my body to go too fast too soon. Injury is always the problem with me. But once I'm healthy, I know I will perform at a high level, so my main focus is to stay healthy throughout the season."
Gonzales, a bronze medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, admitted, though, that his outlook hadn't always been this positive.
"Honestly, at times I feel like giving up, but when you believe in your talent and you have strong support, you have to continue. I believe I still have a lot more. Over the years, I have had a lot of injuries, so my body isn't as burned out as other people, and based on what is happening in training right now, I am positive, and I am looking forward to competing and finishing the season, and looking forward to pushing for Rio 2016," Gonzales added.
Since posting his 44.40 in July 2010 - a year when he registered seven sub-45 seconds marks in 12 finishes - Gonzales went on to run an additional seven 44+ seconds times before breaking down in London.
"After my surgery, I had to learn to creep again - literally like a baby. I learned to stride again all over; to sprint. There were times when I came out to training just to walk around or do some core work because I couldn't run," Gonzales remarked on his long way back.
"I kept going because I believe in myself, and I know that once I'm healthy, there aren't a lot of people out there who can beat me."