Defending double World sprint champion Tyson Gay warned Usain Bolt today not to expect a repeat of his dominance at the Beijing Olympics last year when it comes to the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Berlin, Germany, 15-23 August.
Speaking on the eve of the Golden Gala, the third of six stops on the ÅF Golden League 2009, Gay was adamant that the hamstring injury which ruined his Olympics was completely behind him and that he was poised for a repeat of his 100/200m golden double at the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka.
“I’m 100 per cent healthy and I give myself a 100 per cent chance to win,” the 26-year-old Gay said of his Berlin prospects as he prepared to kick-off his European season here after a promising start to his summer at home in the United States.
But supposing Bolt runs as fast as his World record 9.69 seconds in Berlin? It was a question directed not only at Gay but also at Asafa Powell, who faces the American over 100m in the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow. “If he runs 9.69 can we beat him? Yes,” Gay responded without hesitation.
We know what it takes
Powell, the former 100m World record holder before his fellow Jamaican took it from him, added: “We have been talking about beating Usain since the Olympic Games. He ran 9.69 so we know that it is going to take faster than 9.69 to beat Usain and we already said that we want to win the World Championships. So we know what it takes to win.”
Gay failed to reach the 100m final in Beijing, in his first race since pulling a hamstring in the US trials six weeks earlier, and was forced to watch Bolt set his World record 9.69 seconds. The Jamaican went on to win the 200m, in a World record 19.30, and play a part in his national team setting a 4x100m World record of 37.10.
At this year’s US Championships, in Eugene two weeks ago, Gay ran a wind-assisted 9.75 (+3.4m/s) in the opening round but took no further part in the competition, either at 100m or 200m.
Asked today whether, he had been concerned that, by continuing, he might suffer a repeat of Olympic year, and that he might ‘crash’, Gay replied: “No, I was not afraid that I would crash. I had the bye to go to the World Championships (as defending champion) without running all the rounds so that is why I chose just to run one round.”
Prior to Eugene, on 30 May, Gay had clocked 19.58 for 200m at the Reebok Grand Prix, in New York, strengthening his position as the third fastest half-lap runner in history behind Bolt and Michael Johnson (19.32). It remains the quickest of the year but only by 0.01sec after Bolt clocked 19.59 into a headwind (0.9m/s) in Lausanne on Tuesday.
If far from demoralised, Gay at least admitted to being impressed. “I have seen the race and it was pretty good considering the conditions,” he said. “It was raining, it was cold, and he looked pretty good.”
At the time of his 9.75 in Eugene, Gay said: “I ran a horrible race. Technically it was horrible. My focus was horrible.”
What should Rome expect?
So what is he hoping for here? “I’m looking forward to really getting into my season and starting to set up the World Championships and stuff like that.”
“My season has been going OK and this is my first meet competing in Europe. I do have high expectations for myself but not necessarily at this meet. I do want to run fast but I don’t want to put a certain time on it. This is my first real competitive 100m dash.”
Reflecting on Beijing, Gay added: “It had a lot to do with race sharpness, I just didn’t have a lot of races going into the Olympics and I think that’s the reason why I didn’t make it.”
Degrees of fitness
While Gay talks of being 100 per cent healthy now, Powell says he is only at 85 per cent after suffering an ankle injury in training two and a half months ago. However, he showed some measure of form in placing second to Bolt at the Jamaican Championships, in Kingston, 11 days ago. Bolt set a world leading 9.86, Powell following in 9.97.
Powell, who shares with Maurice Greene the Golden Gala meeting record of 9.85, said that Bolt’s performances last year had been stimulating rather than upsetting.
“He ran 9.69, which proves to us that we can go below 9.7,” Powell said. “I was the athlete who ran 9.74 and I proved to the world that athletes can run 9.74, so he has set a mark for us that proves that we can do it.”
David Powell for the IAAF