U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay is getting a shot at redemption in the London Olympics.
The 29-year-old has run the 100 faster than any American, and his time of 9.69 seconds has been bettered only by defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
Bolt eased up to win the gold medal in world-record time at Beijing four years ago. Gay, a three-time world champion, didn’t even make the start line.
“There’s a lot of pressure, I’m not going to lie,” Gay said at a news conference today organized by his sponsor Adidas. “I really want to redeem myself.”
Gay hurt his hamstring at the U.S. trials before the 2008 Beijing Games. That meant he couldn’t perform in the 200 meters and arrived without any race training before starting the 100-meter competition, where he was eliminated in the semifinals, running 10.05. He won the 100 in the U.S. trials a month earlier in a wind-assisted 9.68 seconds.
Gay’s chances of adding an Olympic medal to his collection then evaporated when he and Davis Patton had a mix-up in the heat stage of the 400-meter relay.
Gay clocked his quickest allowed 100-meter time a year later at the 2009 world championships, good for second place behind Bolt. The 25-year-old Jamaican extended his own world record to 9.58 seconds.
In London, Bolt’s not the only Jamaican sprinter Gay has to be concerned with. Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake won the world championships last year after Bolt was disqualified for false-starting. At the Jamaican trials Blake, 22, beat Bolt in both the 100 and 200, clocking a personal best 9.75 seconds in the shorter race, the fourth-fastest of all time.
Bolt remains the man to beat as far as Gay is concerned.
“He’s the only one who’s been where we’ve never been,” said Gay, who’s also running the 200 meters. “He’s still one of the favorites. He knows what it takes.”
Gay’s career has been hampered by injuries. He comes into the London Games a year after surgery on his hip and expects to be involved in one of the fastest races in history if he lines up in the Aug. 5 100-meter final.
“If they run times I’ve never done before, I hope my body is able to go there,” he said.
For Blake, the Olympics are a new experience. He had just finished high school and was at home watching Bolt in Beijing prance around in front of television cameras making his trademark “lightening” sign.
“I try not to think about that rivalry. I just focus on me and what I have to do,” Blake told reporters. “For me, I keep it simple. I want to beat those guys but it’s all about the execution.”
Not having the Olympic knowhow his rivals, who also include another former world record-holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica, isn’t a disadvantage, said Blake.
“Everyone’s talking about experience, experience,” he said. “For me it’s about going out there and getting the job done.”