By ELLIOTT DENMAN
DES MOINES, IOWA -
Wouldn't it be something?
If Tyson Gay stayed healthy.
And got healthier and healthier.
And got healthy enough to run, say 9.56 and 19.15, sometime this summer.
And got to run the socks off Usain Bolt at the 14th edition of the World Championships in Moscow in August?
How exciting would that be for the track fans of America? And the world?
Hugely-humongously-astoundingly-eye openingly-exciting, for sure.
And maybe huge enough, maybe humongous enough for a track and field athlete
to become a mainstream-household
name in the vocabulary of a walking-down-the-street, general-issue fan, for
the first time in years and years.
By general assumption, it would be hard-to-impossible for virtually any American
self-described sports fan to cite the name of any currently competing track
and field athlete - other than Usain Bolt .
It's a status last held, you might guess, by Carl Lewis, Or perhaps by Michael Johnson.
But probably no American trackperson has held it since.
Not even Gay, after he doubled the dashes at the 2007 World Championships.
Having examined Tyson Gay in full flight at Drake Stadium, at the USA Outdoor National Championships
here the past four days, the educated assumption is that he's ready to run a lot faster than the
9.75 he ran to win the 100 final Friday night (despite a poor start), or the 19.74
he ran to win the 200 final late Sunday afternoon.
A whole lot faster, world-record pace faster, perhaps/perhaps/perhaps.
The Kentucky-born, Arkansas-schooled, Florida-trained dashman, now 30, ran like the rocket of old,
the Gay of the 9.85 and 19.86 wins at the 2007 Worlds. Only better.
After he blasted away from his principal 100 challengers - Justin Gatlin (9.89), Charles Silmon (9.98) and
Michael Rodgers (9.98) on the Friday night card, his name popped up on the start list for Saturday's
first round of the 200.
Some shuddered when they saw him on that list.
"Why-oh-why-oh-why is he doing this?" they asked. "Doesn't he remember 2008 (when Gay
crashed and burned running the 200 at the USA Trials, his mightily-muscled hamstrings unable to beat the
battle of the bends.) Doesn't he remember all the bad stuff he's gone through
ever since (virtually five years of rehabbing back into old form)?
Why, please tell us, is he risking the 200, when
we all know the turn is not his strong suit, full of potential hazards? Hazards that could erase all
the work he's done just to get back to Square A?
(Gay even ran down a hazard in the semifinals of the 200 earlier Sunday, a TV review that saw him
stepping on the white lane line, a potential DQ-ing offense. But other than from the TV booth, that
call was never made.)
And Tyson Gay went out and did the double, staying fully healthy as he did so,
and maybe sending fright waves all the
way to Jamaica, where Bolt was running his own nation 's Worlds Trials.
Gay called his performance in the 200, merely "OK" and "a little sluggish."
"I haven't run the curve in a long time," he acknowledged. "I sometimes have
a tendency to lean over too much (one of the causes of his 2008 Trials grief),
I think that's what I did a little bit, but I ended up coming out all right."
Why the double, knowing the risks?
"A little bit of pride, little bit of ego. I didn't really want to give up
on myself. As long as I feel good, I wanted to go for it.
"And I'm happy that my (Clermont, Fla.) training partner (Texas A&M
alum Curtis Mitchell,
third in 19.99) made it with me."
Runner-up to Gay in the 200 at 19.86 was U. of Mississippi product
"My coach was telling me all year long that I was ready to do
something special," said Young. "He told me that, first of all, I needed to believe in myself
to make that happen. I just came out here today, ran my race once again, got to the final, it was pretty impressive, but coach was calling it all year."
He saw room for improvement, too.
"The last 10 (meters), I kind of broke down, looking over at Tyson
instead of just pumping through and keeping my form. I still think it's a great day. I made the team, second place. It's been a long year for me and I think that's pretty good."
Curtis Mitchell, the third-placer, has had a Tyson Gay-like history - great
running, great potential to do even better, but major injuries.
"It's been two years since I came out of school so my body hasn't been
to 19 seconds since 2010," he said. "I've been hurt the last two years and
even this year leading up to it. This (Sunday) was me digging deep, staying relaxed,
hitting positions and not panicking when I saw others in front of me. I focused
on running my race because the finish is my strongest part."
I'm glad I was able to put it together when it mattered and seal my ticket for Moscow."
Team USA head men's coach at Moscow will be Mike Holloway of
"This will be an outstanding team with a lot of mixture of youth and veterans,"
he said. "Everybody seems to be fit and competing at a high level. We have a good young team that has stepped up to the plate. I think we'll be fine with this group."
And nothing might be finer than to be in Moscow 2013 and see Tyson Gay
and Usain Bolt having it out, for all their sport's marbles, on track and field's
9.56 ? 19.15? Why not?