Trotter makes Women's 400m team with serious knee injury


Amber James
Special to USATF
USA Track & Field

Dee Dee Trotter finished third in the Women's 400m on Thursday with a time of 50.88 to make her second Olympic Team in what may have been the greatest accomplishment of her athletic career. The 2007 national champion and an Olympic finalist, Trotter just a few weeks ago could barely run. But she didn't want to miss her opportunity to compete in Beijing.

About two months ago, Trotter opened her car door and the door came back unexpectedly and hit her in her left knee. "I thought nothing of it, kept going, kept running, until my knee started to swell up until it got to about the size of a grapefruit. Now I have to wear a DonJoy knee brace pretty much anytime I'm not running to kinda minimize action, and I get it drained periodically."

Leading up to the Trials, Trotter's injury forced her to post performances in the high 53 seconds range and knew that wouldn't be good enough to get her to Beijing. After working closely with doctors, they came up with a plan that would put Trotter on the track. Whatever happened next was up to her.

"To be here has been a true blessing, because every round I just prayed to make it to the next round. I can't wait to see the playback [of the race]. It had to be ugly, brutally ugly, a fight to the finish. I don't even know what I was doing out there." Trotter came in third by .03 seconds after battling it out with second place finisher Mary Wineberg. "I just wanted to make the team and third, first or second didn't matter. To be in the finals was great for me."

Trotter was part of the winning 4x400m relay team at the 2004 Olympics in Sydney and, thinking 2012 was far away, decided to continue competing on her injured knee and go for the 2008 Beijing Games. "I wanted to make it this year. It was a year that I felt like I had to keep going no matter what was trying to stop me. I felt that 2012 was a stretch and I didn't want to wait four more years to try to get where I wanted to be. I was just looking forward to making this go at it one good time."

Before her races, Trotter likes to do or watch something lighthearted to keep her mind preoccupied so she doesn't over-focus on her race. She names Spongebob Squarepants and Nickelodeon as preoccupation pastimes. When she's not running or winding down, Trotter is busy with "Test Me I'm Clean," an organization that she founded that is educating "youth about the dangers of using performance enhancement drugs."

Going with Trotter to the Beijing Games to represent the United States in the Women's 400m will be Sanya Richards and Mary Wineberg.

Trotter's additional awards include being a 2-time World Outdoor 4x400m relay gold medalist ('03, '07); 2007 USA Outdoor champion; 2-time USA Outdoor runner-up ('05, '06); 2-time USA Indoor champion ('05, '07); 2004 NCAA Outdoor champion;2004 NCAA Outdoor champion; 2003 NCAA runner-up; and 2003 Pan Am champion. Trotter is 25 years old and lives in Knoxville, TN. Her career best is 49.64.