On the night in 2008 USC track star Bryshon Nellum was shot in the legs, Director of Track and Field Ron Allice was by his side in the hospital. While the doctors questioned whether Nellum would ever hit top gear again, Allice chose to believe.
“He’s my guy,” Allice told the Long Beach Press Telegram. “It’s his career. I’m not going to tell any athlete, especially one as talented as Bryshon, what he can’t do.”
Allice stood by his prized pupil as he went from can’t-miss to can’t-run. Now the duo can’t stop smiling as the preparations continue for the London Olympics.
“We literally took it day by day, year by year,” Allice explained to sportswriter Bob Kaiser. “What he had going for him is this amazing will to come back, each time. The amount of work he’s put in to get back … I’ve never seen anything like it.”
In late June, the former Long Beach Polytechnic High School standout qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in the 400 meters, finishing third to reigning Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt and NCAA champion Tony McQuay by setting a personal record 44.80. He bested Trojan teammate Josh Mance, who will join him in London on the 4×400-meter relay team.
At the time of the accident, Nellum, then 19, was walking out of a restaurant at Vermont Avenue near West Adams Boulevard with a few other people about 2 a.m. when several men drove by in a car. One of them may have yelled a gang slogan before opening fire, Los Angeles Police Officer Sam Park said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Park said police had no suspects and did not know whether the gunman targeted Nellum’s legs. “When you shoot, you tend to shoot lower than your target, or they might have targeted his legs,” Park said. “We don’t know.”
After undergoing surgery, Nellum’s doctor said that it was difficult to say whether the athlete would regain his world-class speed.
“I expect him to recover and get back to his activities in the future, hopefully,” the doctor said, according to the paper.
Allice has coached more than 300 All-Americans and has sent upwards of 40 athletes to the Olympic Games. His first Olympian dates back to the 1964 games, but his latest double-digit crop featuring Nellum might be the most rewarding.
“I’m happy he’s going to the Olympics,” Allice said of Nellum. “But as far as I’m concerned, he’s already won.”