Faster than Usain Bolt at 19, Alonso Edward was rated as the next great thing in sprinting before injuries took a hold. Following several fallow years, the Panamanian returned to top form last year and is now in the mood for more success.

Alonso Edward has speed in his genes. His father was an ex-sprinter, as was his mother, Margaret, who hails from Jamaica, although neither made it to international level; his younger brother, Mateo, is a 10.29 100m sprinter.

And yet the Panamanian sprinter could be described as an accidental athlete. A baseball-obsessed schoolboy growing up in Panama City, Edward was a gifted centre fielder and batsman tipped for a future in the American league, until one practise when he was struck in the head by a ball propelled at 85mph.

It left him wracked with self-doubt and nerves, and proved terminal for his baseball aspirations. He switched to basketball before a chance opportunity to try athletics came along.

“I was at high school at the time, kind of skipping one subject,” confesses Edward. “The science teacher’s son did track and field, and he had heard rumours about me being really fast in baseball.

“He asked me to represent my high school at a track and field meet and said if I did, he would help me out in the subject. At first I wasn’t keen, but he asked me again, so I went along. I competed in sneakers and a sweatshirt and I managed to beat a lot of the guys who had competed internationally.”

Alonso Edward ()

Edward's 200m 19.81 at the age of 19 remains his PB and the South American record

In his first full year in the sport he was crowned South American youth champion in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in 2006. The following year he won the 100m at the South American junior championships.

He left his home to attend Barton Community College in Kansas, and under the coaching of Matt Kane he set a glut of national records in 2009. The sprint double at the 2009 South American Championships in Peru preceded his most staggering performance yet, when he ran 19.81 for silver in the 200m behind Usain Bolt’s world record clocking of 19.19 at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. He was still only 19.

“It was really amazing,” he says. “I had sacrificed so much to that year; Christmas, New Year and Carnival [held every February in Panama].

“There was a lot of excitement and tears. I remember at that time I was so excited to show the medal to my mother, friends and the whole of Panama.”

That run, faster than Bolt’s best of 19.88 at 19, inevitably saw him touted as a potential successor to the Jamaican icon’s throne. Yet, injuries proved a curse. A strained hamstring wrecked his 2010 campaign. He pulled a quad and DNF’d in the 200m final of the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. In 2012 he barely competed.

“I’d had a lot of problems with my weight,” Edward, now aged 25, says of that troublesome period. “I had tried to become bigger by getting on the weights, but it hadn’t worked out for me. I needed to find the perfect formula, so I made a lot of adjustments.”

After London 2012, Edward joined Lance Brauman’s high-class training group in Florida, a move he describes as “like stepping into the major league”. He also overhauled his nutrition, shunning the oxtail and dumplings that had previously been a staple in his Jamaica-influenced diet. His weight plunged by 17 pounds (almost 8kg) to 165lbs. Despite the weight loss, he insists today he is stronger than ever.

In 2013 – “my wake-up call season,” as he describes it – progress became apparent. He ran fast and performed consistently. A semi-final exit at the Moscow World Championships was underwhelming by his standards, but crucially, 2013 was injury free.

Last year he ran seven of the nine quickest 200m times of his career, including a 19.84 in Lausanne. He won four Diamond League races to land the overall 200m Diamond League crown, smashing the 20-second barrier three times and ending his season victorious over 200m at the Continental Cup.

“Every meet was a highlight in 2014 because I was just happy to be injury-free and able to perform to my best,” he says. “I was happy with my season.”

Having worked hard on strengthening his hips during the winter, he relishes the prospect of competing injury-free again in 2015. He started the season solidly with a couple of early outings in Australia – including a 20.65 clocking in Melbourne. A hard fought win in 20.33 at the Shanghai Diamond League at the weekend showed little sign of cobwebs. He is now fully focused on the challenges ahead.

“I’m not thinking about PRs. I’m working more on the world championships [in Beijing in August] and trying to get a medal,” explains the muscle car-loving Edward. “I’m just happy to be in shape and healthy. If you work hard, anything is possible.”

Which begs one final question: did he ever pass science at high school?

“Oh, yes,” he says with a smile. “He [the science teacher] had me study a lot and I passed the subject.”