- Associated Press - Friday, July 1, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Sprinter Michael Assefa went from despair to elation in less than 24 hours at the U.S. Paralympic trials, all because of a broken blade.

Assefa was in the blocks for the final of the 200 meters Thursday night when the prosthetic he wears in place of his lower left leg snapped.

A dejected Assefa, from Frankfort, Ill., was left sitting next to the track as the race went off.

“I had my accident where I lost my leg four years ago, and I set out a goal to go to the Paralympics ever since, so to have it break right before the race was devastating to me,” Assefa said. “I thought all my chances were gone.”

Assefa, who was injured in a train accident, was unsure of what would happen next. But a team of people were standing by ready to help.

“There’s no real process. There’s no protocol for it,” Assefa said. “So a bunch of guys here - we have a great community - they called the manufacturers, they overnighted a blade for me, and this morning we got it in.”

His doctors fitted him with the blade just 45 minutes before the start of the 100-meter finals on Friday.

Assefa ran the race in 13.3 seconds, crossing the finish line third in the heat. The time doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the American team - under the rules of the Paralympics, national teams are limited in size and U.S. officials have to decide who is in and out - but it gave Assefa’s hopes a big boost.

He walked off the track with sweat dripping down his face and a big smile. He posed for pictures with family, friends and fans while fighting back tears.

“I’m blessed, I’m excited, I’m ecstatic,” Assefa said. “I want to go drink a beer.”

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Allison Gasparetti is a journalism student at Penn State. Penn State and Georgia are partnering with The Associated Press to supplement coverage of the 2016 Paralympics.

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