By: Rick Armstrong in The Beacon-News; 06/13/2018
Morolake Akinosun knows the right Achilles tendon she tore this past winter at an indoor track meet could be a career-threatening injury.
But as the elite sprinter from Aurora gets ready to dive into what will be a long rehabilitation, it’s good to see she hasn’t lost her drive or sense of humor.
Akinosun, of course, is the Waubonsie Valley and Texas graduate who won 2016 Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the American 400-meter relay team.
Her fortunes continued to rise after she signed with Nike. She won another 400 relay gold for the U.S. team, this time in the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.
“Yes, it’s going to be a challenge to come back,” Akinosun said. “Yes, people can and do come back from it, but not everyone does.”
She was injured Jan. 27 and had surgery Feb. 1.
“They say it takes 6-9 months to return to normal activities and 9-12 months to get you back to training like before the injury,” Akinosun said.
She pointed to former Ohio State hurdler Christina Manning, who came back from the same injury to set a U.S. record.
Medical professionals believe age and overuse can be key factors in the tendons losing their elasticity and tearing. Being 24, Akinosun should have time on her side.
She remembers watching on television as Kobe Bryant,then 36, suffered the same injury late in his career in April of 2013. He returned to play parts of three more seasons.
“Kobe got fouled and he heard it pop,” Akinosun said. “I was pretty impressed seeing him get up and go shoot the two free throws before he left the game.”
“I’m not that impressed anymore,” she said. “He was wearing padded basketball shoes with a lot of support for his ankle. I was wearing track spikes that weighed about four ounces each and did nothing for you. I was able to walk about 40 meters to a training table.”
Akinosun actually tore her Achilles after running a 60-meter dash at the Texas Tech Classic.
“It didn’t happen in the race,” she said. “They had a mat folded and curved up against the wall so after you crossed the finish line you kind of ran up the padding and then jumped back.”
She didn’t hear a pop, either, but did feel something give or loosen.
“I had had some tendinitis in the Achilles the previous couple weeks and it felt like it had loosened up,” Akinosun said. “I had no clue, other than it felt different.”
She had just run a seasons-best 7.18 seconds.
“And I still had the finals to run and one other event,” Akinosun said. “That was tough because I almost always run faster in finals than prelims.”
Still living in Austin, Texas, she will continue to work with staff at the school.
“This spring I was still around the track all the time,” she said. “I set small goals rather than look too far ahead.
“The first two weeks it was getting the splint off. After four, I started walking. Now (four months after the surgery) I’ve started jogging — 30 seconds on, 30 off.”
In between, she’s working with a wide range of school-age kids at Texas track camps this summer.
“Getting my coaching credentials in order,” she said.
“I don’t know when my first meet back will be, but soon enough I’ll compete.”
Whether she gets back or not, it sounds like she’ll have her bases covered for her next career step.
Wherever it leads.