Tyson Gay has struggled with health issues the past four years, which was part of why he opted against attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in the 200-meter dash. While understandable, that decision likely cost him an individual Olympic medal.
But in the finals of the 100-meter dash, he finished just behind teammate Justin Gatlin. They were both behind the "Killer Bs" from Jamaica, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
Prior to an injury in 2008, Gay was about the only sprinter that could threaten to beat Bolt. He clocked a 9.68-second 100 at the U.S. Olympic trials. However, he pulled a hamstring in the initial qualification heat for the 200.
Injury issues followed Gay through the 2011 season. He wasn't able to get back on the track and start training for the 2012 Games until March.
Conditioning concerns led him to drop the 200 from his program, instead focusing on the ultra-competitive 100.
A second-place finish in the U.S. trials was a troublesome marker, as the odds of more than one American reaching the podium in the 100 were very low. Still, Gay was hopeful he'd be able to close the gap on Gatlin with another month of training.
Gay did just that, cutting his trial time of 9.86 down to 9.80, the same time Gatlin posted at the trials. But Gatlin shaved .01 seconds from his time, costing Gay a medal.
Gay shared his thoughts via Twitter.
It's tough, but I have no excuses, I gave my all. Everybody came together and made me the best I can be. I tried my best.— Tyson Gay (@TysonLGay) August 5, 2012
Gay's efforts to be ready for the trials and the 2012 Olympic Games are admirable. He's fought through multiple injuries and a hip surgery, but the one obstacle he couldn't overcome was his desire to beat Bolt in track's biggest race on the world's largest stage.
Wallace Spearmon Jr. is the best hope for the U.S. to medal in the 200. He is one of two men that are expected to take the bronze behind the Killer Bs.
But Gay is a better sprinter and would have had a much better opportunity to grab a medal in the 200.
Granted, there are training and conditioning concerns that come into play to prepare for the longer sprint. This is also the distance that Gay injured himself, creating a mental block.
But his mindset of wanting a shot at the more prestigious distance instead of the more open 200 is what cost him an individual Olympic medal.
He should still leave London with a silver medal in the 4x100 relay. The U.S. and Jamaica controlled six of the eight lanes in the final 100-meter heat. They are well ahead of the rest of the sprinting competitors.
There is even a slim chance the U.S. could secure a gold medal in the relay. Make that a very slim chance.
Even without Asafa Powell, who pulled up during the 100, Jamaica has speedy options in Nesta Carter and Michael Frater. Those two joined the Killer Bs to set a world record at the 2011 World Championships.
As Gay watches Spearmon take on the field in the 200, Gay will likely be questioning his decision against competing in the 200. But perhaps sticking to just the 100 allowed Gay to remain healthy enough to accomplish his primary goal, as he told ESPN:
I put some pressure on myself because I want to get it accomplished. That's my goal. I want an Olympic medal, to come home with it. I'm never going to be satisfied, but I would be satisfied in that area with a medal.
It won't be an individual medal, but a trip to the podium in the relay is just three clean handoffs away.