USC's Bryshon Nellum was told about three years ago that he might never again compete at a world-class level after he was shot in the legs as he walked home from a Halloween party.
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Nellum, a Long Beach Poly High School grad, was at 29th Street and Vermont Avenue near the USC campus when shots were fired from a vehicle. He was struck in each thigh and his right hamstring.
Survival, not his track career, was front of mind in that moment.
"First, I knew I was breathing, so I thought, ok -- I know I'm alive," Nellum told NBC4's Fred Roggin. "Next was, would I be able to run again?"
Nellum's trip to London 2012, which seemed unlikely in the months after that night, was sealed at the U.S. Track and Field Trials earlier this year when he nabbed the final Olympic qualifying spot in the 400m. Nellum, 23, finished with a personal-best 44.80 seconds to beat out USC teammate Josh Mance for third behind LeShawn Merritt and Tony McQuay.
The final kick down the home stretch was a high point in Nellum's Olympic journey, which included several surgeries after the shooting. The first surgery was on the night of shooting -- doctor's removed the bullets, leaving behind scars.
Fragments from the shotgun blast remained in his body for three years. The recovery was painful and sometimes frustrating.
"It was like being a baby -- I had to crawl before I could walk before I ran," Nellum said.
He was back in competition form by May 1, 2010, when he finished second at the USC-UCLA dual meet in a 400m time of 46.31 seconds.
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He finished third at the 2011 Pac-10 Championship meet and won the 2012 Pac-12 Championship with a time of 45.20.
As for the gunmen, Travon Reed and Horasio Kimbrough were found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Nellum attended their hearings, but never received an answer to the question of why he was shot.
"I wanted to be there only because I didn't know who shot me," Nellum said. "I didn't know why I was shot. I wanted to look them in the eyes, let them know I was still here, and I'm going to be walking out of the courtroom."
[UPDATE, Saturday, 5:33 a.m.] Nellum ran a 45.29 in Saturday's qualifying heat, good enough to advance to Sunday's seminfal. The final is set for Monday.
"I've been through a lot of ups and downs, and for me to overcome this and reach my goals, it was an amazing feeling," Nellum said.