If medals were awarded for sheer guts and determination, decathlete Dean Macey would surely take the gold every time.
THE MACEY MAN
Full name: Dean Macey
Honours: world silver (1999), world bronze (2001)
Coach: Greg Richards
The 26-year-old has had to battle with injuries since he burst onto the global stage with silver success at the 1999 World Championships in Seville.
He grimaced his way to world bronze in 2001 in Edmonton, but career-saving surgery on a hamstring problem, plus a serious Achilles injury, have kept Macey stranded on the sidelines ever since.
Now the Canvey Islander faces his biggest test yet as he bids to bounce back from the wilderness with gold in Greece.
It's a big ask, but Macey is an ironman with a massive incentive.
Sandwiched between his two world championship successes, the popular Essex athlete finished fourth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The agony of just missing out on an Olympic medal has subsequently stuck in Macey's throat and Athens will be all about righting what went wrong Down Under.
"I went to Sydney, my first Olympics, thinking I'd be happy to set a personal best and finish in the top eight, but I came fourth and set a reasonable pb and I was gutted," he recalls.
"I swore to myself and to everyone else that I would never come fourth again. I remember the feeling of 'so near yet so far' as if it was only yesterday.
"That's why I'm going to Athens determined to win gold.
"It may be unrealistic with all the time I've had out, but I stand a good chance of getting a medal and I'd rather aim too high than too low - I made that mistake once and I won't do it again."
Seven months into preparations for Athens, the Rochford-born star feels things are beginning to come together.
But he admits it has been a gruelling comeback trail.
Several young guys who I was beating before my lay-off have really come on and Americans Bryan Clay and Tom Pappas will definitely be ones to watch
"The running was the hardest thing. It was like I'd never done it before. The lactic tolerance that I had built up over the years had gone and when the sessions were intense it was interesting to say the least," he says.
It takes a little time to wise up, but 'interesting' in Macey's vocabulary translates as 'excrutiatingly painful' to the rest of the world.
"I'd roll around the floor after a run, my legs would be burning up and I'd quite often be sick. But that's behind me now. I'm starting to enjoy the sessions again," he adds.
Macey is quick to credit coach Greg Richards with helping him along the road to recovering his form of old.
"Dean has been fantastic. He went to the Olympics himself, so he knows what's required. But he treats me as a human being.
"He usually gives me lots of encouragement when I'm on the floor in agony!"
But Macey hopes the pain will have been worth it when he qualifies for Athens in Gotzis in June.
"I won't score a pb but if I can get 8,500 points, even if I get my backside kicked, then that will get me there and I can worry about getting my own back later in the year," he continues.
So how does Macey rate his Olympic chances?
Battler Macey is determined to have cause to celebrate again in Athens
Well, he is clear on one thing - who will be his rivals.
"Several young guys who I was beating before my lay-off have really come on and Americans Bryan Clay and Tom Pappas will definitely be ones to watch."
Then there's the usual suspects - 2000 Olympic champion Erki Nool, of Estonia and Czech giants Tomas Dvorak - the 2001 world champion - and Roman Sebrle, the current world record holder.
As for his own form, Macey is reluctant to make any predictions.
"My weakest event is the shot. That's going pretty badly and my running is not quite as good as it was.
"As a 46.2 seconds-man everyone will expect me to blast the 400 metres, but come Athens I just don't know.
"Sometimes I have a training session and I'll run, throw or jump and think 'where did that come from?'
"It's unrealistic to suggest I'll be better than I've ever been but everyday I go out on the track and think of two things - coming fourth in Sydney and knowing that everyone else will be in great shape.
Macey believes he will have to better his pb of 8603 to win gold
"That makes me run harder and throw further. How will things work out? It will take a personal best from me I'm sure, but I'm an unknown quantity really.
"I'll guarantee one thing, though: Everyone will see a lot more heart from me."
Like any high-achiever, Macey admits there are rare days when he has doubts about his body's ability to handle the physical demands of the decathlon.
But the keen carp fisherman assures that a few hours reflection on the riverbank helps him get everything in perspective.
"Athletics is what I do. I love the training but I have never enjoyed competing because I've always been under so much pressure because of injuries," he says.
"At every major championship I've contested it's always been a case of 'am I gonna get through this?'
"But athletes are measured by medals. Winning counts and I aim to get to Athens and do exactly that.
"I'm determined to show the world that Dean Macey is back."