In 2016, James Ellington was at the height of his career. Personal bests in the 100m and 200m, Olympic team member for the 100m and 4x100m, European Champion as part of the 4x100m relay, and 5th in Europe for the individual event. It seemed as if nothing could slow him down.
But five months after that record-breaking season ended, Ellington was involved in a motorbike crash with team-mate Nigel Levine that wasn’t just potentially career-ending, it was life-threatening.
Levine has yet to return to competition following the accident, and has since been handed a four year doping ban.
Ellington’s injuries were catastrophic. The sprinter lost six pints of blood in the accident, underwent three surgeries, and spent six weeks in a wheelchair. Ellington, who has a 100m personal best of 10.04 (9.96w), was suddenly left not only unable to run, but also struggling to walk. A compound fracture of the tibia and fibula on his right leg, a fractured ankle, cracked pelvis and broken eye socket were just some of the injuries that he was left with. His lower body is now held together by carbon fibre rods, screws and bolts.
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Do you believe in fate ? I’m constantly in pain throughout my body and sometimes have to take 3-4 days off at a time, but every time I can train, I get shown a little bit more light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not playing about trust me. Today was a good day. #unbreakable #comeback #power #speed #frontsidemechanics #technique #training #track
But the scars run much deeper than those left on his body. Ellington has long spoken about about the lack of support for him following the crash. Sometimes it feels like he’s the only one who believes that this comeback can happen.
And yet, Ellington still has a blind faith that he win return to the top of his game. Aiming to make his third Olympic team in 2020, he has been confirmed as part of the 100m line up for this weekend’s Anniversary Games in London. For his first competitive race in three years, starting back on the big stage of a Diamond League meeting is a daunting prospect. But Ellington, who has always believed that this comeback would happen, isn’t fazed.
“I always said from day one, ‘As long as I’ve got my legs I’ll be able to run’.” Ellington told Telegraph Sport. “I can’t really explain how or why I knew, but inside me I always believed it. It’s not deluded X Factor belief, where you can’t sing, but you think you can. If I was done I would have known. But I knew I wasn’t.”
I had a dream last night I was running in the London Olympic stadium again.
— James Ellington (@Jellington100m) April 10, 2019
No matter the result on Saturday, Ellington’s tale is an inspiring one. It’s a stark reminder to all athletes out there to keep on pushing, no matter what.
Ellington will be running in the men’s 100m at the Anniversary Games on Saturday 20th July, 2.35pm. Find the schedule and start lists here.
See a licence for the image used in this article here.