Donavan Brazier Has Left the Nike Union Athletics Club; Had 4th Surgery on Foot in July

The 2019 world champion did not race at all in 2023

Donavan Brazier, the 2019 world champion at 800 meters, has parted ways with the Nike Union Athletics Club and coach Pete Julian. Julian confirmed the news to LetsRun last week.

“I still have a close relationship with Donavan and think the world of him,” Julian wrote in a text message to LetsRun. “We’ll miss having him around on a daily basis.”

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Brazier, 26, joined what was then the Nike Oregon Project in the fall of 2018, where he was coached by Julian, then an assistant to NOP head coach Alberto Salazar. When NOP disbanded one year later after Salazar was banned from the sport by USADA, a number of Julian’s athletes, including Brazier, remained in Portland and formed the Nike Union Athletics Club.

Under Julian, Brazier ran a world record in the indoor 600 (1:13.77) and American records in the indoor (1:44.21) and outdoor (1:42.34) 800. His most impressive year came in 2019, when he won US titles indoors and outdoors, then won the Diamond League 800m title in Zurich and the world title in Doha, where he broke the championship record. His 1.13-second margin of victory was also the largest in the 41-year history of the World Championships.

Since then, however, Brazier has dealt with a series of injuries and has not raced at all since July 2022. LetsRun spoke last week with a source in Brazier’s camp to get an update on his situation. The source told LetsRun the following things:

Brazier wanted to move away from Portland

One of the main reasons Brazier left the UAC was to spend more time in his home state of Michigan, though Brazier has also spent time training/rehabbing in other locations recently including San Luis Obispo, Calif., (where his friend and former UAC teammate Craig Engels is based) and College Station, Tex., where Brazier competed as a collegian for Texas A&M in 2015-16. Currently, Brazier does not have a coach; that decision will be made as he continues to ramp up his training.

Brazier set an American indoor 800m record of 1:44.21 at the 2021 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (Kevin Morris photo)

The biggest focus for Brazier right now is getting healthy

Brazier took risks by competing while injured in both 2021 and 2022. At the 2021 Olympic Trials, Brazier made it to the final but fractured the tibia bone in his left leg at some point in the final or semifinal and finished last in 1:47.88. A year later, Brazier tried to compete at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene while battling an Achilles issue and wound up sixth in his heat in 1:46.72, failing to advance to the semifinals.

While those risks ultimately did not pay off, in an interview with LetsRun last year, Brazier maintained they were worth taking: 2021 would have been his prime Olympics, while 2022 was the first World Championships ever held in the United States.

Now the focus for Brazier is fully on getting healthy. From June 2021 to February 2023, Brazier underwent three surgeries, all on his left leg:

June 2021: Surgery to repair fractured tibia
July 2022: Surgery to repair Haglund’s deformity (a bony bump on the heel that can irritate and fray the Achilles tendon)
February 2023: Follow-up surgery to clean out scar tissue from Haglund’s surgery

The source told LetsRun that in July 2023, Brazier underwent a fourth surgery on the same leg, once again to repair the Haglund’s deformity in his heel. The initial Haglund’s surgery in July 2022 had been minimally invasive in an attempt to allow Brazier to return to competition more quickly. But one year later, with Brazier’s foot still not feeling right, he opted to receive another Haglund’s surgery — a more complete version of the surgery Brazier underwent in July 2022. This most recent surgery was performed in North Carolina by a different surgeon: Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist who has worked with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers and whose former clients include Derek Jeter and Stephen Curry.

Brazier is running again and feeling good about where he is at right now

While there is no timetable for Brazier’s return to competition, his camp is optimistic about his progression following the most recent surgery. Currently, Brazier is mixing cross-training — which includes work on the exercise bike and up to an hour and a half on the elliptical — with running. Though Brazier is still not running every day, and his volume is not back to its pre-surgery level (which was already fairly low, around 35 miles per week), the hope is that Brazier will be able to train close to fully by February.

Talk about Brazier leaving the UAC on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard: Jordan Hasay & Donavan Brazier have left the Union Athletic Club.

More on Brazier from March 2023: LRC After Another Surgery in Feb., Donavan Brazier Is Hoping He Gets A Chance to Compete in 2023: “All I Really Want Is a Shot”

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