- Last Updated: 4:13 AM, June 17, 2012
- Posted: 11:48 PM, June 16, 2012
Possibly the most-scrutinized body part at the Olympic track & field trials — which start Friday in Eugene, Ore. — will be Tyson Gay’s surgically-repaired right hip.
It was that hip that sidelined Gay for nearly a year, before finally making his return at last Saturday’s adidas Grand Prix on Randall’s Island. How quickly he can round back into form may determine if any American sprinter can challenge Jamaican stars Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake this summer in London.
“It’s one of those issues where it makes me feel older than I really am,’’ Gay, who will turn 30 during the Olympics, said with a chuckle. “[It] aches and grabs, but I just try to go out and run through the pain.’’
He ran through pain and a headwind last Saturday, his solid 10-second flat time in the “B” 100-meter race signaling his contention for a top-three finish in the trials and that coveted Olympic berth that’s eluded the second-fastest man in history.
“It felt great to be out here again. I had some pinches in my hip, but I was able to run through the pain. … I just need to keep a positive attitude at all times,’’ Gay said. “I’d like to get one more race before trials, but if I don’t I’m going to just go in with a positive mind frame, put it together and make the team.’’
That’s a far cry from Gay’s halcyon days as the world’s biggest track star — when the question wasn’t if he would win but by how much, not if he would make the team but what records he would break. But injuries changed all that, ensured if he’s going to make this Olympic team — with the prelims on Saturday, and the semis and finals on Sunday — he will have to run through pain to do it.
“Like I told him, we’ve got to run with the pain. This is not something that’s going to go away instantly,’’ coach Jon Drummond told the Post. “We have to make sure we’re not hurting anything, and if we’re not, we have to go through that wall. That’s where we are.’’
Gay is no stranger to injury. After earning three gold medals at the 2007 World Championships, he was beaten in New York the next June by Bolt in a race that saw the latter break the world record. Weeks later, Gay pulled his hamstring at the trials and was denied a berth to Beijing.
He returned in 2009 to run a U.S.-record 9.69, the second-fastest time in history behind Bolt’s world-record 9.58. Hip surgery last July sidelined him again for nearly a year until last weekend, when he drew confidence from being just .10 off Blake’s winning time in the “A” race.
“[Bolt and Blake] are running great right now. It just goes to show when you’re healthy you can do almost anything,’’ said Gay, who will bring two physiotherapists to Eugene. “[Bolt] is on fire right now, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to be ready.
“My confidence is OK. The thing about it is before [last weekend’s] race, Jon Drummond told me if you run a 9.9 you’re going to be OK, and if you run a 10-flat you’re going to be OK. That helps me. … We’re right [where we want to be].’’
But not where they need to be to win in London. Though Gay came through last weekend’s comeback physically fine — never a surety, with his luck — his execution was far from perfect.
“I went back to some of my old habits. My arms [swung] too long, and I’m taking too big steps at the start,’’ Gay said. “One thing I noticed was I popped my head up, and we talked about that. I’ve been working on it. It’s more nervousness, trying to see where you are compared to everybody else.’’
If it seems like Gay is nit-picking, he is. But the devil is in the details, as are gold medals. Those details are what makes up the difference between Gay’s 10.00 and matching Bolt (world-leading 9.76) or Blake (9.84), or even overtaking the four U.S. runners ahead of him this season.
“If he can feel all of that, it means we’re right where we need to be as far as fixing it,’’ Drummond said. “He’s mature, really listens and he knows his body now. He used to say it before, and I used to contradict him, [but] I can truly say he knows his body well. Good things are coming, because he knows what’s going on.’’
Olympic good? That remains to be seen.