London 2017 | Praught-Leer runs through the pain barrier
When Aisha Praught-Leer turned up at the starting line for the women's 3000m Steeplechase final at the World Championships in London last night, her target was quite different from the ones she's used to having before a race.
She knew from the onset that there would be no great performance; no medal, no personal best - just a start and a finish, a homage to a year of sacrifices and changes that was in truth lost during an unlucky incident during the preliminary round of the event on Wednesday.
"In the prelim, a woman had fallen in front of me in the water jump, and I reached my left foot out to sort of try to get over her without incident and I ended up jamming my foot really badly," Praught-Leer explained.
In essence, Praught-Leer ran the final on one leg. In fact, since her preliminary round, yesterday evening's warm-up session ahead of her race was her first time taking a running stride.
Still, despite the pain, the Jamaican explained that she could not allow herself to sit out the final after changing her entire approach and life in the off-season with the goal of taking that next step in her career.
"I worked so hard for this. I uprooted my life and changed everything so I could become a better athlete for me and my family. I couldn't not get on the line," said an emotional Praught-Leer, who finished down the track but was eventually disqualified for stepping off the track.
This is the third straight misfortune to have affected the athlete, who was also disqualified in 2015 at the World Championships in Beijing and who fell during the Rio Olympics prelims last year.
"It doesn't feel good at all," said Praught-Leer.
"But this means everything to me and I wanted to be there today, I wanted to finish, I wanted to be there for my training partner, who won the gold and I couldn't not start. I like to think of myself as very tough, I could have easily not gone on that line," she added.
The event was won by American Emma Coburn in 9:02.58, a new championship record with her teammate Courtney Frerichs, 9:03.77 taking the silver and Kenyan Hyvin Jepkemoi, 9:04.03 taking the bronze.
Praughtt-Leer changed her training base from Oregon to Colorado ahead of the season to train alongside Coburn in a move that she hoped will help her to improve, which she did, as she lowered the national record to 9:19.29 and was the 10th fastest athlete heading into the event.
She is, however, hoping that things will start falling into place soon enough.
"I'm resilient, and one day things are going to work out for me and the chips are going to fall right in a row for me to have the kind of success that I want and all I can do is focus on what I can execute and what I can control, and I did everything that I can control," Praught-Leer said. "I was able to step on the line and cross the finish line, and that was all I really could do."