Tyson Gay will not fade into oblivion

Tyson Gay will not fade into oblivion

From the Sports Desk

With Hartley Anderson

Sunday, February 19, 2012

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FOR those who were probably willing into oblivion the spectre of Tyson Gay as a gateway to Jamaican sprinting domination, the diminutive athlete, in an interview with a US-based news network last week, reminded of his presence and intention for the Olympic Games this summer in London.

Gay, in throwing down an early challenge to his rivals, including the legion of Jamaicans, forthrightly articulated his dream of being crowned men's 100m champion when the dust settles on the marquee event in England.

However, like modern boxing where the top contenders avoid each other for as long as possible, athletic fans can forget any significant pre-Olympic clashes among the top sprinters ahead of the inevitable climax of speed, power and mental toughness for the coveted accolade later this year.

As such, fans should brace for a calculated Diamond League season from the prospective Olympic protagonists. With fears of injury and burnout to contribute to the evasive strategy expected from most athletes, this may not be the most competitive professional season ever, with so much at stake.

Having risen to stardom on the basis of talent, hard work and determination, Gay left no doubt as to whom he now considers the chief antagonist in his bid to claim the ultimate prize in his career and forever etch his name in the history books.

Unavoidably, the presence of Usain Bolt hovered like a heavy fog around the interview, and although the feared name was never specifically uttered, the soft-spoken American was sufficiently implicit for one to infer who his formidable stumbling block is.

As one mused on the seriousness of the US national 100m record-holder, the sheer zest of this individual who has achieved so much, yet gave the impression he could easily shrug off his three gold medals won at the IAAF World Championships in 2007 to focus on Olympic glory, could not be admired.

No doubt a studied tactic, Gay prefers to speak about himself. On this occasion, he spoke at length about the injury disappointment of Beijing where he failed to make the 100m final, and again at the World Championships in Daegu last year where he was beset by a problematic hamstring.

"It was like coming off a high and going to the lowest point of my life in a span of 12 months," Gay conceded about the Beijing disappointment.

"Being a champion I wanted to follow up with an Olympic medal and after going through the trials and having the American record in the 100m dash I was feeling good, and then I pulled my hamstring in the 200m and that's when things just changed. It was very tough... that's just something I had to learn to deal with over the years," he said.

According to the second fastest man in history, consequent to a recent intense rehab programme, he should be injury-free this season and anticipates the fulfilment of his Olympic
100m dreams.

A remarkable statement from Gay was that his frustration at losing to Bolt in 2009 in Berlin stemmed from from falling below his personal best 9.69 seconds, by clocking 9.71, rather than from not winning the race.

"If I do my best and I don't win then I have to be satisfied with that," said the 29-year-old Kentucky native. "So when I ran 9.71, I was mad I didn't run 9.69, but it was so close that it was almost like I couldn't be mad because I knew that we worked to do what we tried to do, and I just took the loss."

In measuring performance by personal standards, Gay rejected the logic of being compared with other athletes, ensuring he remains autonomous about his game and is not psychologically affected by defeat. Of course, it's difficult to ignore that he lost by a big margin of 0.33 seconds in that record-breaking run of 9.58 by Bolt nearly three years ago.

Also noteworthy was the subtle hint that Gay may not focus on the 200m this season; he never once mentioned that event in the entire interview. It, therefore, means the hardworking American could prove an even more potent contender over the short dash and should continue to have
the Jamaicans glancing over
their shoulders.

Like the established rivalry that exists between Veronica Campbell Brown and Alyson Felix in the half-lap, Gay, once he is fit, has always been a considerable hurdle for Jamaican sprinters whenever he competes. Further, barring any distortion in the form books, he could be the athlete who stands between Jamaica and an historic clean sweep in London.

Gay had an ominous warning for his rivals -- in his own style, of course -- about just what could happen if he manages to evade the injury bug this season.

"Last year, for me to run with basically one leg, I ran 9.7. I can be a lot more dangerous as long as I stay healthy and get a lot stronger in the weight room," he said.

In echoing what the pundits maintain, Gay declared: "I really believe this is going to be one of the most exciting Olympics ever in history, and I like a challenge."

With some five months to go before the famed curtain call, it will be interesting to see how the stellar 100m event pans out in London. From a Jamaican standpoint, like Gay, the hope is that our athletes remain fit and focused and steer clear of injury, thus setting the stage for what should be a stirring battle for the title of world's fastest man.

For me, the wait for the London 2012 Olympics is almost unbearable.

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