Tyson Gay saw his Olympic dream shattered in 2008 by a hamstring injury and now the former world champion comes to the London Olympics after needing nearly a year to recover from right hip surgery.
A confident Gay will test himself against Jamaican stars Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt and fellow American Justin Gatlin in the men's 100 meters, hoping to claim a medal in a final that comes four days before his 30th birthday.
"It's going to be tough," Gatlin said. "A lot of these guys are already sharp and running great times. I'm just going to go fight them.
"I feel real good about my chances. Stay healthy, that's the main thing right now."
Gay won world 100m and 200m titles in 2007 and was a favorite for the 2008 Beijing Olympics before pulling a hamstring during the US Olympic trials, leading to a semi-final ouster at the Olympics.
Gay matched Bolt for the second-fastest 100 ever recorded to win at Shanghai in 9.86 seconds in 2009, the same year he finished second at Berlin in 9.71 to Bolt's world-record run of 9.58.
In 2010, Gay delivered reigning Olympic champion Bolt's first defeat in two years on his way to capturing the Diamond League 100m crown.
But in 2011, Gay underwent hip surgery to solve several chronic problems. There were times during the recovery when Gay doubted he might ever run again at a world-class level.
"It was a slower process with me," Gay said. "I had a lot of doubts. I tried to tune them out. It was just everything I had to go through. I couldn't even jog until March."
Gay made his competitive comeback after being idled for 50 weeks on June 9 in a secondary race at the Diamond League meet in New York, winning in 10.00 seconds running into a 1.5m/sec headwind.
"For my first race in a while, that was not a bad time," Gay said. "I had no pain. I felt good."
That was Gay's only tuneup race for the US Olympic trials, where he finished second in the final to 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin's career-best 9.80, qualifying for London in 9.86.
"I knew it was going to be a dogfight," Gay said. "I knew I had to run my heart out just to make the team."
Gay's time shares eighth on this year's world list and put him level for fifth among this year's performers behind Blake, Bolt, Gatlin and Asafa Powell.
"I just wanted to make the team," Gay said. "That's probably all I could ask for right now. I feel like I'm on the way up."
But Gay remains cautious about his health, having used two physio-therapists to treat his hip during the trials.
"The plan worked. It held up pretty well," Gay said. "I'm just going to continue to take care of my body and stay healthy. That is the big thing."