For the better part of four years, Perdita Felicien has been focussed on earning her chance for Olympic redemption.
Now it might be an all-out race for the talented hurdler from Pickering just to make it to the starting line at the Beijing Summer Games.
A nagging foot injury that ruined the 27-year-old's indoor season and delayed the start to her outdoor campaign is threatening to scuttle her chances to compete in China this August.
As the then world indoor and outdoor champion, Felicien was a heavy favourite to win gold in the 100-metre hurdles at the Athens Games in 2004. But disaster struck when she shocked herself and Canadians coast-to-coast by tumbling over the first hurdle and failing to finish the race.
Both physically and mentally, it has been a slow road to recovery since. The former NCAA star at the University of Illinois seemed to be back on track this past summer, however, when she finished second at the world championships in Osaka, Japan.
But a stress fracture she suffered in her foot this past winter has been slow to heal and after an apparent setback recently, time is starting to become a serious issue.
"Certainly hurdles is a highly technical event and it's important to get repetitions in to perform at your best," former Athletics Canada head coach Alec Gardiner said yesterday in an interview. "Typically you would need six to 10 competitive events for that.
"Can you do it in less? Probably. She's a good hurdler technically, but you still need a good cluster of competitions to get the body and feel back."
Gardiner, who now is the Canadian Olympic Committee's director of international performance, helped oversee Felicien's preparation for Athens. As recently as this past winter, he was encouraged by Felicien's form and fitness.
"She was looking lean, as good physically as I've seen her," Gardiner said.
Now, Felicien, who burst onto the scene when she won the world championships in 2003, must make up for lost time. Her first important test will be the Canadian track and field championships (which double as the Olympic trials) in Windsor from July 3-6.
Even if she has recovered and is fit by then, Felicien would have to be sharp given the depth in the event in this country. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby and Edmonton's Angela Whyte both are world class and are anxious to dethrone the Canadian champ.
Felicien did not respond to phone and e-mail messages yesterday.
"Her primary focus right now is to prepare for the Canadian Olympic trials," Felicien's agent, Renaldo Nehemiah told cbcsports.ca. "Then, after that, take the competitive season from there."
With many of the top Olympic hopefuls getting their season underway in the next couple of weeks, Felicien already is losing ground to some of those she would have to face in Beijing.
"It's not impossible," Gardiner said of Felicien still making it. "I've seen athletes come off injuries and perform personal bests. But in hurdles, so much of (one's success) depends on timing."