US spinters on comeback trail
Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 6:05 am
By PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Their comebacks far from complete, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay are on the right path.
For Gatlin, it’s a journey back from a doping past.
And for Gay, it’s a march toward full recovery after hip surgery nearly a year ago.
Gatlin and Gay just might be the best shots at chasing down Usain Bolt at the London Games. They showed they’re rounding into top form in the 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday. Gatlin won in 9.80 seconds, and Gay was second — 0.06 seconds behind.
“These two can really encourage each other and motivate each other to take on that other little island out there who’s been dominating America,” said former hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, who represents Gatlin.
With their performances, Gatlin and Gay might have put Bolt and his Jamaican teammates on notice.
Or so they hope.
“I think he (Bolt) is a great talent and a great runner. I’m just glad to be back and in my top form,” Gatlin said.
Before crouching into the blocks, Gay took a giant swig of water and then another.
The American record holder breathed deeply and cleared his mind — forgetting all about that surgically repaired right hip or that he really hasn’t tested it out at top-end speed in more than a year.
All that mattered was this race before him.
And after flying down the track, not a trace of a limp in his step, this much was clear: The old Tyson Gay was back.
He was headed to London when a year ago that very notion looked improbable.
“Bittersweet. I always like to win. I came in second,” Gay said. “But at the end of the day, it was about making the team. I got to make sure I turn this little bit of a frown into a happy face. For me to start training in March and make the team is a beautiful accomplishment.”
Also joining Gatlin and Gay in London will be 23-year-old Ryan Bailey, who edged 2009 U.S. champion Mike Rodgers, Doc Patton and Walter Dix, the Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing.
Dix pulled up in the semifinals with a left hamstring injury and wasn’t the same in the final. He’s hoping to be ready for the 200 this week.
“Things like this happen. I really can’t say much about it,” Dix said.
The last time Gatlin was at the Olympics trials — eight years ago — he was a youngster about ready to become the next big thing in sprinting. He won gold at the 2004 Athens Games and a world title the following year, before his fall from grace.
He tested positive for excessive testosterone in 2006, leading to a four-year ban that prevented him from defending his title in Beijing.
Now 30, he’s attempting to repair his tarnished image.