EUGENE, Ore. – Anyone who saw the way he slowly uncoiled from his crouch and lumbered down the track during his first race at nationals could tell – something was wrong with Tyson Gay.
It turned out to be something big – a hip injury that forced one of the world’s top sprinters and one of the top challengers to Usain Bolt out of the meet, off the U.S. team for worlds and into rehab mode with the London Olympics only 13 months away.
Gay said he made the decision Friday as he was talking to his agent’s assistant while trying, without much success, to warm up before the 100-meter semifinals.
“He pulled me to the side and said, ‘I can’t take it, seeing your face keep grimacing,’ ” Gay told The Associated Press. “He said, ‘I know you do it because you love it and it’s all you know.’ I decided to try to get ready and take care of it.”
The hip has been bothering Gay for most of the year, and after a lackluster run in Thursday’s prelims – a major effort in a race he can usually coast through – he said it was, in fact, still bothering him.
Instead of fighting through it Friday, where he needed a top-three finish to secure a spot in worlds, he chose to shut it down. He won’t run in the 200, either.
It means the U.S. team at the worlds will probably have to do without its top sprinter of the last several years – the 2007 world champion in the 100 and 200 and the American record holder with a time of 9.69 seconds.
And it would be a significant setback in Gay’s quest to catch Bolt, who holds the Olympic title and world records in the 100 and 200.
Gay’s absence put a different twist on the final, where Walter Dix (9.94), Justin Gatlin (9.95) and Michael Rodgers (9.99) finished 1-2-3 to earn the three spots at worlds. Rodgers, the 2009 national champ, sneaked into a spot that probably would’ve gone to Gay had he been healthy.
Gatlin, however, was the bigger story. Back at nationals after serving a four-year doping ban, the 29-year-old showed he can still run with the best.
The 2004 Olympic champion was crying when he crossed the finish line.