Gay out to track down the Bolt
In another time, another era, American sprinter Tyson Gay might have been the unbeatable one, the toast of the track world.
Instead, his prime years just happen to coincide with the rise
of Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sensation who's smashing world records
and distancing himself from Gay, along with anyone else who steps
into the starting blocks.
Gay's times are great. His timing? Not so much.
Not his fault, of course. It routinely happens to the best of
Ato Boldon certainly knows the feeling, having once been in
Gay's spot. Boldon came along in a period that included US stars
Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene.
If not for them, Boldon might be a household name. If not for
them, he might have more gold medals.
"How many people in different eras in sports would've been the
best ever if not for the 'fill-in-the-blank' superstar. With track
and field, it's even more so," Boldon said. "Tyson's in the Usain
era. It's just unfortunate. I feel more sympathy for Tyson Gay than
any other athlete of any other era. I look at him on film, and how
he competes, and how much he's improved since Bolt came on the
scene. Still, it's not enough."
Gay refuses to give an inch, though.
In fact, he hopes that by holding back a bit this spring he'll
be able to power forward later on. He had surgery on his groin in
the offseason and has yet to fully push himself in a race.
He may elect to do so on Sunday, when he lines up for a straight
200m race at the Great City Games in Manchester, England. He's
chasing Tommie Smith's 44-year-old mark of 19.5 seconds, an
unofficial mark because only 200s run around a curve are recognized
by the IAAF. Gay's top time in a sanctioned 200 is 19.58.
"I haven't really sprinted just yet," the 27-year-old Gay wrote
in an email to The Associated Press.
He embraces the challenges that Bolt brings, admitting his
rival's presence only makes him better, makes him stronger. Despite
an ailing groin last season, Gay lowered his American record in the
100, breaking the tape in 9.69 seconds at a meet in Shanghai.
In any other era, that would've been the mark to beat. Yet all
it did was equal Bolt's old record, the one he set at the Beijing
Olympics in 2008.
Bolt's new time to chase stands at 9.58, which he set at the
world championships in Berlin last summer.
"I've said it many times - Usain has made me better because he
has forced me and other sprinters to change the way we think," Gay
said in the email. "I need to just keep working on my race - my
start, my drive phase and my technique."
Asked what his expectations are for the 2010 season - a year in
which there is no major championship - Gay simply responded, "To
get faster, to stay healthy and enjoy sprinting."
There was a time when Gay was beating Bolt, taking the 200 crown
at the 2007 world championships in Osaka, Japan, by 0.15 of a
second over the Jamaican.
That seems long ago, before Bolt became the sprinter he is today
- the man no one can really catch. Bolt also owns the world record
in the 200, too, churning down the track in Berlin in 19.19.
With his 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) frame and propulsion out of the
block, Bolt has completely changed the mold of what a sprinter was
supposed to look like. That's what makes him so unique, so
Boldon recently wrote a column in which he said Bolt could slip
into the mid 9.4s before his career is done. Boldon's best time in
the 100 was 9.86.
"You're talking about a once-in-a-lifetime person - the numbers
continue to boggle the mind," Boldon said.
Each time Gay gets close to closing the gap, Bolt simply takes
the sport to another level.
Really, Bolt's only competition these days is the clock. He's
become that untouchable.
"Will somebody catch Bolt? Maybe if he's out late the night
before in Europe. Then maybe you catch him," Boldon said. "In terms
of a championship and he's healthy, no way. The only one making
inroads is Tyson. But it seems like every time he takes a step
toward his target, the target moves."
It just might be time for a new target, maybe the sprinters in
That's the thing: Gay was splendid in that distance during an
April race in Gainesville, Florida, turning in a personal-best
With that performance, he became the first sprinter to go under
10 seconds in the 100, 20 seconds in the 200 and 45 seconds in the
Finally, something Bolt hasn't done.