Tyson Gay of the US wins the men's 200m at the World Athletics Final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Gay – better, stronger, fresher – World Athletics Final

MonteCarloOf the handful of upsets to emerge on the first day of the 3rd World Athletics Final in Monaco, perhaps the most eye-opening was Tyson Gay’s victory in the 200m.

“I feel great,” said Gay, the former University of Arkansas standout who celebrated his 23rd birthday last month. Among his victims was World champion Justin Gatlin, who suffered his first loss of the season over the distance.

“To get a victory over him -he doesn’t lose too often - It’s a great feeling.”

Bringing a narrow lead into the homestretch, Gay powered to a 19.96 win, his second fastest of the year, and the third legal sub-20 clocking of his young career. Gay admitted that his early lead did take him by surprise, but he managed to keep his cool.

“I was a little surprised. But a couple of my friends told me to just run through the finish line, to not wait for anybody. And that’s what I did.” Winning by more than two-tenths of a second, his characterization was somewhat of an understatement.

Looking back on his Helsinki performance, where he brought in the tail end of the unprecedented top-four U.S. sweep, Gay said he didn’t make any particular mistakes in the final, but he did take some valuable lessons to heart.

“I need to learn to run the rounds more easily, and conserve my energy for the finals.” In Helsinki, Gay blasted to a wind-aided 19.99 in the opening heat.

His race in Monaco, he said, “felt better. I felt stronger, I was fresh, I was rested up.”

But he was also nervous.

“I was a little nervous because of the field. That field was the World Championships all over again. That brought back memories from Helsinki. But I came here to do my best.”

Besides Gatlin, who wound up fourth, Gay also got the better of former teammate Wallace Spearmon (third, 20.21) and John Capel (eighth, 21.04), the Helsinki silver and bronze medallists.

“All these guys are tough competitors,” Gay said, speaking in a low-key, almost modest tone. “And I came out here and got the job done.”

After his first major international win, Gay said he’s going to call it a season. With a victory over the World champion, it’s a good way to look ahead to 2005.

“It feels good. I’m looking forward to meeting up with him again next year. We’ll see what happens.”

For his part, Gatlin paid his respect.

“Tyson came home with a silver at nationals, and no major title. He deserves it.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF