Michael Johnson suffered a terrifying stroke (Photo by Fotoholica Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Michael Johnson suffered a terrifying stroke (Photo by Fotoholica Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Olympic legend’s terrifying ordeal

Michael Johnson, once the fastest man on the planet, has detailed the moment he was told he might never be able to walk again.

The American sprint superstar, 51, suffered a stroke in August and admitted that even walking the length of a short hospital corridor took him 15 minutes.

Even well into retirement, Johnson has always prided himself on keeping himself in peak physical condition.

Working out daily, no smoking, no junk food - it was all part and parcel for Johnson, whose shock stroke diagnosis rocked the athletics world.

Looking back at that awful August afternoon, Johnson told The Telegraph: "The first question you have is: 'Will I be able to recover? Will I be able to walk again? Will I be able to stand again?'

"The scariest part is the doctors saying there is no answer. Only time will tell.

"I was in good physical shape so they said my chances were better, but they could not give me an answer. That is very scary.

"You start to think about loved ones - is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life? Am I going to be able to walk again?

"Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone?

"You're forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality."

Johnson celebrates breaking the 200m world record at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Johnson celebrates breaking the 200m world record at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

For years Johnson was the quickest man of all-time over 200m and 400m.

Usain Bolt poached the first of those records, running a scorching 19.19 secs at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Wayde van Niekerk then shattered the 400m time at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with Johnson reacting in astonishment. After the race, the American said: "Oh my god. I've never seen anything like that."

But looking back on his recovery in a Los Angeles hospital - Johnson recalled his first major trial - a walk down the corridor.

"(That walk) took me 15 minutes," he said. "I used to be the fastest person in the world at that distance. But I wasn't discouraged.

"I got back to my room and said to my wife: 'I will make a full recovery and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before'."

Johnson went on to reveal he felt angry and cheated by his stroke having spent his life in dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

The Texan-born star added he "definitely (felt) anger". "For many people who have suffered a stroke it comes from heart issues or cardiovascular issues - but they weren't able to find any of that with me," he said.

Johnson powers around the track with his famous straight-back style and gold shoes. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
Johnson powers around the track with his famous straight-back style and gold shoes. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

"I don't have a history of heart disease, I don't smoke, I was working out when this happened, I don't eat junk food.

"So initially I was very angry thinking I'd done all of the right things and made all of the sacrifices so why is this happening to me?

"Here I am, 50 years old and I suffered a stroke. What gives?

"I was very upset for a while, but the sooner I got into physical therapy and started to work on getting better, I knew that would be better for my mind."

Johnson said his life as an Olympian helped him recover with a truly determined outlook.

"It was clear to me then that the only thing standing between me and a full recovery was my ability to focus and work through the pain," he said.

"I just needed to get into training mode and dedicate myself to that.

"I was literally waking up every day with one goal. I just had to get back into the same mindset that I did while I was competing and training for the Olympics."

This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission


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