LONDON – Tyson Gay was so choked up, he couldn’t speak. Justin Gatlin was so happy he struggled to find the right words.
Once again, Gay walked away empty-handed from the Olympics when he finished fourth in the 100-meter final that was dominated by Usain Bolt.
“I tried, man,” Gay said as tears streamed down his face. “I tried my best.”
With Gatlin, it was never about effort, only whether he would get another chance after serving a four-year ban for testing positive for excessive testosterone. He made the most of it, chasing Bolt and his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake to the wire, before winding up with the bronze.
He blazed out of the blocks on Sunday, picked up steam midway through the race and held off Gay – along with Ryan Bailey – to take third in a personal-best time of 9.79 seconds. He needed that, too, because Gay finished 0.01 seconds behind.
“It just feels good to be back,” Gatlin said. “I’m here – another eight years later. My road and my journey coming back – I’ve been through a lot.”
For Gay even to line up in London was something of a medical marvel. He had surgery on his hip last summer and was running on grass up until 4 1/2 months ago, because his hip was still too sore to take the pounding of track workouts. He hardly raced at all leading up to the U.S. trials, where he finished runner-up to Gatlin to earn an Olympic spot.
With a slight limp, he made the field for the Olympic final and almost earned a medal.
Almost made it even more painful.
“That’s all I had, man,” said Gay, who didn’t make it to the 100 final in 2008. “I gave it my all. I feel like I ran with the field – came up short.”