On one hand, the results don't really matter. On the other, they mean more now than they have in the past four years.
Such is the strange spot that Coquitlam's Ruky Abdulai finds herself in, as the 26-year-old grapples with returning from a career-threatening injury while at the same time trying to capitalize on a miniscule window of opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Summer Olympics.
"I'm very competitive and I can't give up," Abdulai told The NOW Monday.
"I haven't finished my business on the track. I always thought this Olympics would be the last one, but after all the injuries that I've gone through this year I don't feel like I've finished my business."
Hampered by a lingering knee injury, Abdulai spent the better part of the last year on the shelf, unable to train or compete.
Earlier this year, she began undergoing a series of treatments known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a newly emerging treatment method that other sports stars - Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal and Hines Ward - have turned to in recent years.
Having returned to regular workouts less than a month ago, Abdulai has taken a piecemeal approach to training in her new discipline of choice, the seven-sport event know as heptathlon.
"Right now, we're just trying to get some tune-up competitions in and try to adjust techniques," said Brit Townsend, Abdulai's coach and head of the track and field program at Simon Fraser University.
"The biggest thing right now is staying healthy, but she has to be able to get through all seven events at a decent level. We don't have to be a superstar in anything, but we have to be very decent in all seven events."
Her most recent competitive foray came last weekend when she competed in two separate events in a three-day span, a run highlighted by her firstplace leap at the Harry Jerome International Track Meet held Sunday in Burnaby.
Her jump of 6.27 metres was well back from her personal best of 6.74 m, and her 40.85 m in the javelin saw her finish sixth in a field of six competitors.
But at this point in time, the process is the focal point.
"Going in to the Harry Jerome, I was hoping to jump about 6.30 m," she said of her expectations.
"I would have been happy with that, but I was still happy with 6.27 m because this was my first long jump since last year. So I was quite happy with that."
Having only transitioned to heptathlon in 2010, Abdulai quickly made headway in a sport that combines the 100-m hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, javelin and both the 200-m and 800-m dashes.
She won the Canadian championships last June, and two tournaments in California in back to back years before a 13th place showing at last year's world championships.
Though the knee injury first took root close to three years ago, a severe tear to the same area all but shut her down last year. Having watched the first few months of the calendar flip by without any training - in an Olympic year, no less - almost got the better of the Simon Fraser University grad.
"I've been in that position where I felt like it was over because I couldn't do it," she said.
"But my coaches keep motivating me and my husband has been a huge part of it too, telling me that I still have time. My physiotherapist and my massage therapist all encourage me and motivate me and assure me that I still have time and that it's possible."
That positive reinforcement, coupled with some tough love, also came by way of Townsend, who continued coaching Abdulai after her four years at SFU were done.
"I told her the bottom line is that you can either be negative and give up, or you can toss it aside and we can do our best to be ready on time - those are the two choices." Townsend said.
"There's really nothing in between. She's chosen that she's going to give it a really good try."
Compounding Abdulai's race against the clock is the fact that her last chance to qualify for the London Olympics comes later this month - approximately one month since she started training again.
Once she heads to the Canadian Olympic trials in Calgary in the last week of June, Abdulai will need a cumulative score of at least 5,950 and a top-three placement.
"I feel very confident right now. In the beginning it was tough, but I'm thinking more positively now and I'm more focused. I'm not going [to the Olympic trials] to compete against anybody, I'm going there to compete against myself," Abdulai said.
"I'm going there focused on what I have to do, because if I go there and worry about what the other competitors are doing, it's going to throw me off. Right now, I don't have any pressure at all."
Abdulai will compete at a meet tonight (Wednesday) in Victoria in what will serve as her final tune-up ahead of the Canadian Track and Field Trials, which run from June 27 to 30 in Calgary.
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