EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Joanna Hayes limped off the track four years ago at the Olympic trials fully intending on never hurdling at this level again.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist tore a tendon in her knee at the trials and didn't want to go through months of rehab, let alone the grind of another season. So she called her coach, Bobby Kersee, and said she was stepping away for good.
Kersee patiently listened and told her that he would still be around when — not if — she returned.
Sounded crazy at the time. Not so crazy now.
At 35 and now the mother of a young daughter, Hayes is making her return. She's run precisely four races since the 2008 trials — all this season — and yet still believes she can earn one of the three spots on the squad for the London Games.
Hey, it's the hurdles, she insisted, and anything can happen.
"If you can make it into the final, you have a shot, no matter who the favorite is," said Hayes, whose daughter, Zoe, was born on Dec. 11, 2010. "Because you can be the favorite, but if you hit a hurdle, guess what, you're not the favorite anymore."
Hayes only began training again in November, when she placed that call to Kersee and asked to come back to the track.
"He's just like, 'See you at practice then,'" Hayes said. "He knew it was coming. When I retired he was like, 'I'm looking at you like an old boxer. You say you don't want to do this, but you'll be back.' He doesn't care that I'm old."
Her competition in practice, though, keeps her young. She trains in the Los Angeles area with a group that includes defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper and two-time national champion Virginia Crawford.
"Here's the deal: Ginnie is going to beat me out of the blocks. If I hang on to Ginnie, I'll be in front of all of them," Hayes said. "That's my plan."
It's been a struggle for Hayes in her return as she balances motherhood with working odd jobs and still trying to squeeze in workouts. Long gone are any endorsement deals that used to help.
"I have no money," Hayes said, with a casual shrug and then a quick smile. "But I have Zoe. At the end of the day, when I cross the finish line — win, lose or draw — I have Zoe to go to and that makes it all worth it."
SURPRISE GOLD: As a virtual nobody from nowhere, Stephanie Brown-Trafton became a surprise Olympic champion in Beijing.
Over the next four years, she learned that winning the gold medal in the discus made things more difficult, not less.
As she prepares for Olympic trials this week, Brown-Trafton concedes she didn't adjust well to her sudden success. The more she tried to enjoy the opportunities that came with her win — the international track meets, the endorsement deals and the increased travel that arrived with both — the more she scuffled inside the throwing ring.
She couldn't recapture her form in 2009, finishing 12th at the world championships. She was in a rut again in 2010, taking third at nationals. And she failed to get on track last season, winding up fifth at worlds.
So, Brown-Trafton simply went back to the basics for this season, focusing on the little things involved with her technique.
"If I take care of all those, I know I can be successful," she said.
With the tweaks, Brown-Trafton is moving forward again heading into this critical week in Eugene. She broke the American record with a throw of 222 feet, 3 inches last month at a meet in Hawaii.
Everything is beginning to come together with the London Games right around the corner.
"I feel like I'm climbing back up at the mountain again," said Brown-Trafton, who was the first American to win Olympic gold in the discus since Lillian Copeland in 1932. "I'm comfortable climbing, not being the one everyone is shooting for. At this point, I still feel like I have something to prove."
BACON BITS: Eager to shed 20 pounds, sprinter Justin Gatlin was all for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into his diet.
On one condition — he was allowed to mix in as much bacon as he wanted.
For athletes watching their weight, the greasy pork product sure plays a prominent role in their diets.
"You can't give up bacon," said Gatlin, who's running this season at a much lighter 182 pounds. "We negotiated that one."
Brown-Trafton's affection for bacon runs deep, too. She changed her diet in the offseason and dropped 20 pounds by eliminating corn dogs and tater tots.
Recently, though, she found a fast-food restaurant that puts bacon in its ice cream.
"I've yet to try it," she said, but promised that she will.
Allyson Felix can relate.
"Had some bacon yesterday," the sprinter said. "I share in the love."
NO SOUR GRAPES: As hard as this may be to believe, there are hurdlers in the field other than Lolo Jones.
She's become the golden girl of the sport, the one who appears on magazine covers and grabs the headlines in an event that really doesn't get all that much attention.
"They (media) happen to really like Lolo and that's a good thing for the sport," Kellie Wells said. "It doesn't affect anything one way or another."
Jones has appeared on the cover of Outside magazine and recently told HBO's "Real Sports" that she doesn't believe in premarital sex.
"I get it. She's got this face people love, she's got this story," Hayes said. "She puts herself in the right place at the right time. As a fan, this is awesome. She's beautiful. She's articulate. She's a virgin. I want to cheer for Lolo.
"At the end of the day, she's doing what she's supposed to do. If someone came to you and said, 'Do you want to do media?' You're not going to say no. If someone said, 'Do you want this magazine?' No matter if you've won or haven't won, you're going to say yes. If I was Lolo, I'd be doing most of the same things."
DIX UPDATE: The coach for Walter Dix says a sore left hamstring shouldn't be an issue for the sprinter at trials. Dix, who won bronze in the 100 and 200 in Beijing, has been bothered by the injury over the last month.
"There's no issue with it," coach John Smith said.
Still intending to run both the 100 and 200?
"That's the plan," Smith said.