Tyson Gay Gets a 200m Do-Over in Eugene on July 3

Red ShannonFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2010

Even the casual track and field fan will remember the agonizing visual.

Tyson Gay, only a few strides into his 200m quarterfinal heat, tumbled awkwardly to the track, grabbing his left hamstring.

Grimacing in pain, he lay there for minutes under the watchful care of trainers and medics. Eventually, he was carted out of the facility on a stretcher.

It was the 2008 Olympic Trials at Eugene's Hayward Field. And as surely as Gay's entourage disappeared behind Hayward's fences and shrubbery, the hopes of an American sprint double-gold in Beijing vanished.

Days earlier, Gay had won the 100m final with a wind-assisted 9.68 and had established a new American record 9.77 (now 9.69) in an earlier round.

The hamstring injury did not heal before the Olympics, and Gay failed to make the 100m finals. Usain Bolt won both sprints virtually uncontested, setting world records in both the 100m (9.69) and 200m (19.30).

Bolt went on to lower his own incredible world marks to 9.58 and 19.19 respectively, and rule the planet as the world's most recognized athlete. Gay continued to valiantly fight through injury (and Bolt's intimidating shadow) to bear the lesser mantle of "world's second-fastest human."

Surely, Gay would point to that 2008 moment in time, at the north end of Hayward's track, as the sword which sliced his "what can be" into his "what might have been."

On July 3, almost two years to the day, Gay will again settle into the blocks of the 200m at Hayward—at the 36th Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meet.

Still contending with minor physical irritants and the ever-present spectre of Bolt, the mental toughness of Gay will be tested as thoroughly as his body.

Will he permit the trauma of 2008 to dictate the race's outcome?

Or will he use the occasion as a second chance to overcome that demon and re-write his future?

Certainly, in spite of that cruel tumble, Hayward has been kind to Gay. It was on this track where he ran that Olympic Trials' 9.68 and 9.77. And last year, in the USA Championships, in what he termed a "horrible race," Gay produced another wind-aided 9.75.

Though Gay may see the race as having far-reaching personal implications, lining up beside him will be at least four athletes with eye-watering speed in their own right.

Alonso Edward (19.81), Walter Dix (19.69), Richard Thompson (20.12, 9.89), and Shawn Crawford (19.79, 9.88) will have motives of their own.

Not many times does it happen in sport where a chance at a re-do comes around like this. And while this race does not have the significance of an Olympic berth at stake, an injury-free victory by Gay may just be the balm to heal an old wound.


Watch clip of Gay's tumble in Eugene, 2008.

photo: Andy Lyons