MAX STILL SAYS GAY IS HARD PRESSED TO MAKE THE FINAL.
GOTTA GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR A BOUNCE BACK.
Tyson Gay: A humble superstar bids for gold in 100 meters
By HAL HABIB
Cox News Service
Article Date: Friday, August 15, 2008
BEIJING — For someone who wants to be the world's fastest man, Tyson Gay is awfully slow.
He doesn't get it that inside the Olympic Village, everybody knows who he is.
He doesn't get it that leading up to Saturday's 100-meter final at the Beijing Olympics, in what statistically will be the fastest 100 field ever, sprinters aren't supposed to direct phrases like "much respect" at Jamaican rivals Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.
And he doesn't understand that just before they get in the starting blocks, if he's going to say anything to Bolt or Powell, "good luck" doesn't cut it.
Who doesn't this guy think he is, anyway?
Gay is so humble that the other day, as he was leaving the Olympic Village, he attracted a crowd of supporters wanting to take their picture with him - and he thanked them for the request.
Gay was the fan when he ran into Kobe Bryant in the Village cafeteria, asking to take a photo with the L.A. Lakers star, then getting blown away by him.
"How's your leg going, man?" Bryant asked, mindful that Gay injured his left hamstring six weeks ago at the Olympic Trials. "I'm going to check you out and I'm going to keep you in my heart."
Gay could not wait to send a text message to his mother — "Kobe asked about my leg!"
Saturday, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, Gay will be a part of track and field history even before the starting gun goes off. For the first time, three men who have broken 9.8 seconds will share the same track.
"It's probably one of the hottest 100-meter dashes in history," Gay said, again praising his two rivals before adding, "I'm kind of in the pack."
At the Olympic Trials, Gay likely came closer to a technically perfect 100 than anyone in history, a performance so efficient, powerful and graceful, even a novice wouldn't need a clock to recognize its excellence.
The clock read 9.68, the fastest a human had ever produced, and the only reason it's not the world record is the tailwind was too stiff.
Not bad for a guy who just learned how to run again.
In the month preceding the Trials, Gay and coach Jon Drummond revamped his running technique, realizing it was the only way the 5-foot-8 Gay could compete with the stride of the 6-5 Bolt. Drummond wanted Gay to start quicker, extend his drive phase and pump his knees like pistons.
The fact Gay, 26, and Drummond are a team is noteworthy on multiple levels. Gay turned to Drummond because his other coach, Lance Brauman, spent a year in a Texas prison for embezzlement, theft and mail fraud. Brauman was convicted of using student-assistance funds to pay athletes, including Gay, at Barton Community College in Kansas. Gay, who testified against Brauman, said he was unaware of any wrongdoing and followed Brauman's advice by telling the truth.
Drummond couldn't be more opposite from Gay. Drummond was the sprinter remembered for his laydown strike across the track at the 2003 World Championships to protest a disqualification for a false start. It delayed the race 30 minutes.
If that's closer to the image of a sprinter, Gay is more than happy to break the mold.
"I have never put on a certain image just because I was running the 100-meter dash or put on a certain swagger," said Gay, who is from Lexington, Ky., but lists the Orlando, Fla., area, one of his training bases, as his place of residence. "I've always been the same person, so that's the way I was raised."
Maybe Powell and Bolt had parents like Gay. About the closest any has come to talking trash was when Powell said, "A lot of people are saying that Usain and Tyson are very strong finishers. But if I get out there in front of them, then no matter how hard they are finishing, they won't even close on me."
It's not exactly a Joe Namath guarantee, but coming from Powell, it's strong enough. He was leading at the 60-meter mark at last year's World Championships before Gay nailed him. Powell said he "panicked," and some are wondering if he'll crack again. Ironically, Asafa translates to "rising to the occasion."
Bolt turns 22 Thursday but is a fast learner. He broke Powell's world record (9.74) with a 9.72 on May 31, yet he has raced the 100 only seven times.
Running the event is Bolt's way of getting his coaches off his back; they wanted him in the more taxing 400.
"It doesn't matter if I have the world record if I don't have the Olympic medal," Bolt said.
Gay has an idea of the pressure Bolt and Powell face after running into another Jamaican in the Olympic Village. "I hope you don't break up our sweep," he told Gay.
"We laughed about it, joked, but I'm pretty sure their country wants them to go 1-2 - no ifs, ands or buts about it," Gay said.
Ato Boldon, who won silver and bronze medals in the 100 for Trinidad and Tobago, said his unofficial poll of former Olympic sprinters is heavily favoring Bolt. As for Gay, Boldon is unsure he can bounce back from the hamstring strain that caused him to pull up in the 200 at the Trials.
"No Olympic 100-meter champion in recent memory has done so without European competition," Boldon said.
Some, including Boldon and American 200-meter runner Wallace Spearmon, wonder if Gay's leg can hold up through four rounds. Gay said the hamstring is 100 percent and he's "not at all" concerned about his lack of recent races because he saw no point in competing at 85 percent to prove he was getting stronger. Gay took extreme measures to heal, flying to Germany to see "a famous doctor" with extensive experience with hamstrings.
The injury cost Gay a shot at the 200, where he is the reigning world champion, but it also allows him to concentrate on the 100, as is Powell.
Bolt is trying the 100-200 double, which was last accomplished by Carl Lewis in 1984. All three men are likely to meet again in the 4x100 relay.
"For somebody who is a fan and an historian of the sport like me," Boldon said, "we are thinking, 'So we get the last two world-record holders against the world champion. We get the fastest men in history.' If they can't wait, I can't wait, either."