At this time last year, David Rudisha was hoping to make it out on the track at Hayward Field for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, but was instead destined back to Kenya and on the shelf for the season with a knee injury.
Fast forward 12 months, and the 800m Olympic champion and world record-holder is hoping to pick up where he left off in Saturday's IAAF Diamond League Prefontaine Classic, where he will challenge a deep and talented field of athletes eager to take a crack at one of the sport's premier talents as well as the clock.
"Right now the knee is okay and I am happy with how the progress is," Rudisha said at the press conference. "The road, it was tough, but I am happy now that everything is okay and responding and I've been able to train. I am looking forward to being able to compete in my first race."
Rudisha will not be alone in using the 40th edition of this meeting to try to find his way back to top form. Some of track and field's biggest names – Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and USA’s Allyson Felix and David Oliver – will be among the competitors on the mend here.
For the 25-year-old Rudisha, the road back to Eugene has been a painstaking journey through diagnosis, minor medical procedure and rehabilitation.
"After New York last year, I started feeling some pain in my knee," Rudisha explained. "It was like something was catching. I continued with my training because I was planning to come to Pre. When I was here I felt like, no, this is not going to happen. The pain was increasing. I had to tell my coach that maybe we need to check this leg because I am not feeling comfortable. We checked it and found a bone bruise. But I think the bone bruise was the secondary problem. The primary problem was the ligaments around the knee were weak and making the knee play a lot, causing the bone bruise."
Rudisha said he underwent a "keyhole surgery," in which doctors scoped the knee to look for extensive damage, but found none. The prescribed course of recovery was strengthening exercises and physical therapy. The hardest part, however, was not being able to compete, especially in a World Championships year that came on the heels of his historic 800m victory at the London Olympics, which meeting director Tom Jordan dubbed "the greatest race I have ever witnessed."
"When you are an athlete and your main work is training and competing and when we are not out there and training and competing, it's really tough," Rudisha said. "It's hard physically and mentally."
Fraser-Pryce can relate to the mental difficulties associated with injury.
This season, the 2013 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year after winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the World Championships in Moscow has been dealing with a persistent issue in her right leg, one which forced her to withdraw from her last IAAF Diamond League race in Shanghai.
"I have been struggling with it from early in the season but I didn’t know it would get that bad," Fraser-Pryce said. "I am one of those athletes who is very hard on myself. My coach and I will have these arguments where I am in pain or something is wrong, and I won't tell him because I feel like I need to train. We have a blow-up of arguments and he says, 'Shelly, you need to tell me when these things are happening’."
When pressed on the exact nature of the injury, Fraser-Pryce remained coy, saying only that it is a leg issue, not related to the knee and persistent like tendinitis. She revealed that she has sought and received medical attention for the ailment. As for her current status, she says she trained at full-strength on Thursday and Friday without issue but couldn't predict how she would fare in Saturday's 200m.
"It's hard to judge how you are feeling physically," she said. "Overall I think I am feeling okay. I did some workouts yesterday and I am feeling okay. If it was 30 meters it would be fine, but at 200m tomorrow we'll definitely have to see how that goes."
Felix also remains unsure of what to expect as she works back from a torn right hamstring she suffered during the World Championships last summer, the first major injury of her career.
"I haven’t had a lot of injuries so this is kind of a new experience for me," Felix said. "I think I expected to just do the rehab and be able to feel back to my old self again and that hasn’t been the case. It's been a lot of ups and downs with the process of coming back. I'm just hanging in there and trying to get back into top form. That is kind of what the year is about for me."
Felix said that her coach, Bobby Kersee, has eased back on the timeframe in which Felix would normally be working towards reaching peak form as she has had to continue some of the rehabilitation exercises that got her back into running form immediately after the injury.
To date, she has raced just once this year, finishing fifth in the 400m in 50.81 in Shanghai. She is hoping that this 200m race, and her next one at the IAAF Diamond League Bislett Games in Oslo, will be a better indicator of how far she has come.
"Really, I want to see where I am at," Felix said. "We've been training a lot and doing a lot of longer stuff, so just to see where my speed is at and what I need to work on. Obviously I want to be healthy throughout."
Oliver, the reigning world champion in the 110m hurdles, is a bit dinged up coming into this race, having suffered a foot injury coming out of the starting blocks at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, where he finished third in 13.28. Oliver said he got over the hurdles okay in that race but probably ran through an issue that he shouldn't have. He subsequently scratched from the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing and set his sights on this meet, traditionally one of his strongest.
Joe Battaglia for the IAAF