Legendary U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson says an “Olympic mindset” has enabled him to get “pretty much back to normal” just three months after suffering a stroke.
The four-time Olympic champion for Team USA went to the hospital immediately after feeling a “strange tingling” down his arm and left side following a training session in September.
Johnson, 51, initially was unable to walk but vowed to make a rapid recovery after taking 15 minutes to cover 200 meters — the distance over which won Olympic gold in 1996 in Atlanta and claimed two world titles — in the hospital.
“I was achieving tiny incremental improvements and it gave me hope,” he told the BBC.
“I told my wife I was confident of making a full recovery and not only will I do that, I will do it faster than anybody else has done before.
“I knew then the recovery was going to be down to hard work, focus and commitment to the process. That is something I am very familiar with.
“Almost three months on now from the stroke and I am pretty much back to normal and back to work.
“I am feeling good and I was really lucky. It has been quite an experience.”
Johnson added: “You go from fear to anger asking, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ The first thing doctors say is not to smoke, lose weight, work out and get fit — well that is what I was doing when this happened — and eat right. I was doing all the right things so I was pretty angry for half a day.
“Doctors said the best chance of recovery was to immediately get into physical therapy. I did that two days after the stroke and I got out of bed with assistance and got behind the walker around the hospital — and ironically it was around 200 meters. I timed it and it took me around 15 minutes to cover that distance.
“Ordinarily that would be very disconcerting and I would have no hope — having been the fastest person in the world at that distance — but I was very encouraged. With every step I took, I could feel myself relearning.
“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 coordination 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.”