When a javelin pierced his body in 2019 and ended centimetres from his heart, he thought his life was over. Today Elija Godwin is a bronze medalist.
While doing backpedal sprints on an ordinary day of track practice two years ago, Godwin had not seen a javelin sticking out of the ground at an angle, and fell onto it.
The javelin pierced through his back, through his lung and ribcage, and ended centimetres from his heart.
The American track star lung collapsed, he lost oxygen, his heart rate dropped and coughed up droplets of blood. Goodwin thought this would be the end and started praying.
"I knew it was bad because of the blood I was spitting out of my mouth," he told local media.
Laying on the gurney after paramedics sawed off the javelin, he reassured his mum he was going to be okay.
The injury left Goodwin with a punctured and collapsed left lung, and even after the surgery, he struggled to breathe.
"It's in my back!" he said.
But little did he know, just a few years later be would be at the top of his game and even become an Olympic bronze medalist.
The now 22-year-old never used his injury as an excuse, but saw it as a chance to prove himself and come back stronger.
"Anytime I had the house to myself, I'd go out and jog for as long as I could," Godwin told Yahoo Sports.
"I didn't make it down the block before I had to start walking the first time, but I knew it was a process. I was confident that if I kept doing it, it was going to pay off."
In April, in his first outdoor race since his accident, Godwin won in an easy 45.34 seconds, one-hundredth of a second off Georgia's school record. Just a month later the track star smashed his own personal best.
Against all odds, Goodwin made it to the Olympic trials and then successfully made it into the Olympic team.
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"To fulfil the goal of getting there was beyond unbelievable for me," his mum said.
"It gives you this unstoppable emotion that there is nothing that anyone can do to get in your way of what you need to get done."
Last week, Goodwin competed in the men's Mixed 4X400 relay final where his team placed third.