Ben Pattison was warned he might never run again because of a rare heart condition which required emergency surgery during the Covid lockdown.
But the 21-year-old recovered from having part of his heart burnt off to return to the track and become a shock bronze medallist over the 800metres at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday night.
It proved a night of two bronze medals for the British team to take their tally to seven after the women’s 4x100m missing Dina Asher-Smith, who has been struggling with a mystery nerve condition, behind gold medallists the USA and Jamaica.
Such was the surprise nature of it, his ambition in Budapest had merely been to make it out of his heat and he had booked late post-race dinner plans with his parents and girlfriend after the final.
Instead, he was still in the bowels of the stadium reliving becoming the first British man since Peter Elliott to win a world medal over the distance 36 years ago.
Pattison had been inspired to his medal run by a series of advisory text messages from last year’s 1500m world champion Jake Wightman and a conversation with the last person he saw before leaving to the track, Josh Kerr, who had usurped Wightman as world champion.
Of his surgery, which took two to three hours, he said: “So, I had a heart operation a few years back because I had Wolff Parkinson White syndrome. It was a bit scary at the time. It was covid years so I didn’t miss out on racing but I was awake for the whole thing.
“It was a bit surreal. I was watching. They had to burn off a bit of my heart. At the time, it was very scary but I had the right people around me.”
Prior to the surgery, he was consigned to walking as his sole exercise, and not able to run until four months after the operation. His recovery entailed playing Call of Duty Warzone on the PS4.
Before Pattison’s final, Wightman’s advice had been to go out hard, which he duly did and had just enough in the tank to hold off the chasing pack as Marco Arop won gold as expected and Emmanuel Wanyonyi took the bronze.
Britain’s male sprint quartet, boosted by the addition of Zharnel Hughes from the heats, finished an agonising fourth but the women took the final spot on the podium after the Ivory Coast fell and the Netherlands fluffed their changeover.
For Daryll Neita, who ran the anchor leg, it was a medal after just missing out on the final of the 100m and finishing fifth in the 200m.