Costa Rican Nery Brenes is burning up the track with a heavy training schedule as he seeks a third gold medal in 10 months when he competes at the London Olympics.
The 400m runner followed his title triumph at the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara in October with a victory in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March, setting a national and championship record.
The 26-year-old’s rise, a rags-to-riches story, has been years in the making and followed career low points when he was abandoned by sponsors and supporters after an injury.
“In 2008, I had a very good year, the best of my career,” Brenes said in an interview. “In 2009, I injured myself exactly one week before participating in the world [championships] in Berlin and all my sponsors left me, it was an act of backstabbing.”
“I had to keep on working and it was because of the few people that believed in me,” said Brenes, who grew up in the impoverished port city of Limon on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Having reached the 400 semi-finals at the 2008 Beijing Games, he is now in top condition and poised for a second shot at Olympic fame.
However, the modest Brenes, whose personal best of 44.65 seconds is 0.9 seconds slower that American LaShawn Merritt’s winning time in Beijing, stopped short of predicting victory at the Games in London in July.
“The clearest thing is to run the track the best way, conserving energy until the end, this is the most important thing,” Brenes said as he proudly showed off the gold medals he won in Mexico and Turkey.
“We don’t want to promise something that is not realistic because this falls on the critics among us. Run the track and prepare for a possible final,” he said.
His trainer, Walter Salazar, said the recent successes have kept him in good stride for London, but said the Olympic Games would not be his only goal this season.
“It’s part of the process. The Olympics is an important competition in the development of a sportman’s career, you can’t lose sight [of that],” Salazar said. “This year, we started off very well, we won the world championship having ended last year at the Pan-American Games.”
“Definitely he is close to his best competitive years and we are preparing for the best form for the Olympics, which is an important commitment, but it is not the only run this year,” Salazar added.
Brenes’ rise from humble beginnings has captivated the people of his small Central American country and thousands are expected to be cheering on their champion as he competes against the world’s best athletes in London.