Tyson Gay: Sprinter Is USA's Only Hope in 100 Meters

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  Tyson Gay of the United States looks on after winning the Men's B 100m during the adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island on June 9, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After nearly a year away from the track, 100-meter specialist Tyson Gay is finally healthy and poised to bring home the gold for the USA.

Gay is the only hope for his team at grabbing the gold medal in what promises to be an unusually competitive race.

Fellow American Justin Gatlin won the gold in 2004 and will compete again for the USA, but he does not possess quite the explosiveness that Gay has displayed.

According to an article by NBC's universalsports.com, Gay believes it will take a time of 9.7 or better to win the gold medal.

Both Gay and Gatlin qualified at the U.S. trials, but Gatlin beat Gay by .06 seconds in running his personal best time.

However, Gay had only gotten back to competing earlier in June, and he still very nearly won against Gatlin at the trial run.

Gay's best time in the 100 meters is 9.69—the second-best ever—which he ran back in 2009.

Without an Olympic medal to his credit in an otherwise phenomenal track career, Gay's sense of desperation and urgency just may motivate him to a winning performance in London.

Usain Bolt is the defending champion, and he ran a 9.69 in Beijing in 2008. He then smashed the world record the following year by running a 9.58.

Another fantastic sprinter is Asafa Powell of Jamaica, who held the world record twice and has a personal best time of 9.72.

Fellow countryman Yohan Blake ran a 9.75 earlier this year and is only 22 years old. While he has less experience than the others gunning for gold, he will have the freshest legs.

It's true that Gay hasn't been healthy recently, but his best time is the only one that has a shot at giving Bolt any competition. Gay will need to repeat or improve upon that performance if he wants the gold.

Gatlin has had to deal with a doping scandal, but he returned in 2010. With or without enhancements, though, the USA's second-fastest man hasn't proven he can best the 9.8-second threshold.

Dealing with the doping allegations and four-year suspension hasn't left Gatlin with a chip on his shoulder, according to his testimony in Jim Caple's article on ESPN.com.

Along with simply logging faster times than Gatlin, a chip on his shoulder will be exactly what gives Gay an extra boost in the 100-meter dash next month.

Having already won a gold medal, of course Gatlin shouldn't feel he has to prove anything. The fact that he's fought his way back to the Games after such a devastating hit to his image and career is impressive enough.

On the other hand, Gay has plenty to prove. A hamstring injury hampered his performance in 2008, and he didn't even qualify for the final 100-meter race. He was expected to challenge Bolt and Powell.

The injury bug has bitten Gay again for much of the past year, but he's recovered from a hip injury and looks to be rounding into elite form just in time.

This summer, Gay has a golden opportunity not only to redeem his underwhelming Olympic history, but also to justify his spot in the conversation of the best American sprinter ever.