USC 400 specialist, Bryshon Nellum, 23, placed 3rd in the 400m USA Olympic Trials to represent the US in the Olympic games this past weekend. Nellum crossed the line in a personal-best 44.80 seconds, his first sub 45 400 ever, edging his USC teammate Josh Mance for third place behind LaShawn Merritt and Tony McQuay and earning the final spot on the Olympic team. Normally, a third place finish is not the most desirable but, in Nellum’s case, arguably this is the greatest “victory” of his young career.
On Oct 31st, 2008 Nellum was returning to his car late night after a Halloween party near the Southern California campus when he was ambushed and suffered three shotgun blasts to his legs as he was fleeing from the scene.
“It’s crazy because I never did fall to the ground. I kept going, just to run to safety,” said Nellum, who was targeted by two gang members who mistook him for a rival in the early hours, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I hopped and skipped on one leg to safety. And ever since then I’ve just been recovering.” Nellum recounts.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, in February of 2009 two L.A. gang members, Travon Reed and Horasio Kimbrough, were arrested and charged with attempted murder. The pre-trial hearings and court case dragged on for nearly three years, before each man was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
It has been a long journey for Nellum. Doctors told Nellum that he wouldn’t be able to walk again let alone be the World Class Athlete he once was but, that did not deter the former Long Beach Poly Prep star from training, and preparing for the Olympic Trials at Hayward Field inOregon. His Rehab was very rigorous and intense, including a regimen of stretching exercises, weight lifting, balance training, daily ice baths and painful muscle kneading to minimize the scar tissue.
In 2011, he finished 3rd at the Pac-10 Championship in the 400, and this past season he won the event in 45.20. Nellum’s focus has never been stronger going into the trials. Not only was he determined to make the US Olympic Team, but his pride was at stake. He was somewhat destined to do well after being matched up in every heat with 2008 Beijing gold medalist, Lashawn Merritt, pushing him to new levels, race after race since the preliminaries all the way to the finals.
“Of everybody at the Olympic Trials, he has the best story, the most inspirational,” Mance, who ran 44.88, said. “He should be the headliner of this whole meet. No track athlete gets shot with a shotgun and has three bullets go through both legs and is still out there running 44.8s. He’s a blessing. The next goal, is to step up and set his sights on Olympic gold. With everything Nellum has been through, an Olympic medal would seem to be nothing.”
“I slept through it. I dreamt it. I ate it. I woke up with it. I ran through it. I came a long way,” Nellum said. “They say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. I just feel like whatever happened, happened for a reason. “This is a dream come true.””