Emily Infield’s dream of qualifying for a second Olympic Games was shattered by an alleged stalker
A top US distance runner has shared how her Olympic dream was snatched away from her after she was allegedly harassed for three years by a stalker.
Emily Infield, 31, said the stress from the ordeal ultimately cost her a chance of qualifying for Tokyo 2021.
Infield, who represented the United States at the 2016 Games in the 10,000m event, told ESPN she was first approached by her alleged stalker in 2018.
The man claimed to be a USA Track and Field coach and contacted her via Facebook Messenger offering advice about an injury she had sustained.
He continued to message her for a month, at which time she told him to stop contacting her and blocked him.
She later learnt that the alleged stalker had suffered a serious head injury that changed his personality and led him to become ostracised from his friends and family.
The man, named by ESPN as Craig Donnelly, allegedly began calling her on an unknown number and leaving voicemails with cryptic references to an upcoming wedding.
Then, he began sending packages to her home in Portland, Oregon.
Infield told ESPN she bought a home security system and applied for protective orders through the courts.
She was eventually granted a permanent stalking protective order, which police served to Donnelly in October 2018.
More than a year went by without any contact with Donnelly until February 2020, when she was in Boston preparing for a race.
Donnelly had begun posting on social media about her, she learned. She was rattled but still managed to run a personal best time in the 5,000m, which would have seen her qualify for the Olympics.
Then in June, Donnelly allegedly posted on another social media channel that he was coming to Portland to kill Infield, and rented a room not far from her home.
She and her fiance moved to Georgia, but Infield found she was unable to concentrate on her training and became confined indoors.
“I’d worked so hard to become a good runner, but in a singular moment, it felt like all of that was being taken away from me,” Infeld told ESPN.
Donnelly was eventually arrested in June in Tennessee and charged with cyberstalking and violating a protection order.
The experience has completely altered Infield’s life: she no longer shares photos on social media or receives mail at her home.
But she’s hoping to put the experience behind her and now set her sights on qualifying for the 2024 Games in Paris.
And she says she hopes Donnelly can get treatment for his mental health issues rather than go to prison.
“I felt for him many times.”
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