For the last few weeks, Aisha Praught Leer has been in Saint Moritz, Switzerland, prepping with Team Boss for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where she will represent Jamaica in the 1500 meters. In an Instagram post ton Friday, she announced she’s sustained a full meniscus tear in her left knee.
“I want to keep believing in the possibility of achieving the wild dreams I store deep in my heart,” she wrote. “The reality is they will not happen in Tokyo—running to my ability is simply not possible on a knee without stability. This is the most challenging reality I have faced in my career.”
Praught Leer, 31, describes the injury as a freak accident. After the tear happened while she was doing a drill, she went on to have “one of the best workouts of [her] life.” The injury will require surgery, which Praught Leer will have post-Olympics, because she’s still planning to race in Tokyo. The first round of the 1500 meters is on August 2.
“When I arrive I’ll get the fluid drained from my knee and get a cortisone injection,” she wrote. For such a serious injury, it’s a Band-Aid at best, but will allow her to compete. She says she has the support of her surgeon, and thanked her coach, Joe Bosshard, as well as teammates Emma Coburn, Cory McGee, and other family and friends for their support.
Under any circumstance, Praught Leer faces a challenging women’s field in the 1500 meters (her best is 4:05.52). Faith Kipyegon of Kenya has been on a huge comeback campaign after giving birth to her daughter a year ago—in Monaco this month she set a national record of 3:51.07. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands is also entered in the 1500 meters, along with the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters (it’s unknown which of these she will compete in at this point), and ran 3:51.95 at the 2019 world championships. Elle Purrier St. Pierre (3:58.03) is a medal hope for the U.S. and Great Britain’s Laura Muir (3:55.22) is also a contender.
After competing at the 2016 Olympics in the steeplechase, Praught Leer made several big career changes. She left the Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene, to join Team Boss in Boulder, Colorado. She also decided in 2019 to pursue the 1500 meters full-time in order to extend her longevity in the sport.
“I’m a crazy person and decided to walk away from the steeple, where I was top 10 in the world, to one of the deepest, most talent-filled events,” Praught Leer said during an interview with Women’s Running in January 2020. “That’s where I believe my strengths are and last year was the happiest and healthiest I’ve been in my career…I want to run as long as I can. It’s silly for me to call this a job, but it’s the best job I can imagine doing.”
Her post on Friday resulted in an outpouring of support from fans and peers alike. Best friend Emily Infeld wrote that “The work will all show, just not right now, but it’s in there.” Allyson Felix shared three yellow hearts; Coburn commented that Praught Leer is still “bubbly and positive through it all.”
The Opening Ceremony for the Olympics will be re-broadcast in primetime for the U.S. at 7:30 P.M. Eastern on Friday. Find out everything you need to know about how to watch the events here.