Dick Patrick’s column for June 24 concerns the men’s 100 meter team. As Dick so ably writes, anyone who discounts Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey does so at their own risk!
By Dick Patrick
June 24, 2012
Usain Bolt may not be shaking in his Pumas after seeing what the U.S. will bring to London in the 100 meters. The contingent, determined Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, contains a former gold medalist sprinter who lost four years to a drug ban, a former world champ who has had two surgeries in recent years and a darkhorse.
The team does not include the most recently decorated sprinter, Walter Dix, a double bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympics and a double silver medalist at last year world championships. He finished eighth and last in the final after apparently aggravating a hamstring injury that has been a problem all season.
But don’t count out the century delegation of Justin Gatlin, the 100 champ at the 2004 Olympics and ’05 world championships, who served a four-year drug ban; Tyson Gay, the 100 and 200 champ at the 2007 world championships, who was in too much pain to jog until March; and Ryan Bailey, a promising talent who has overcome a difficult childhood.
All three have beaten the odds to qualify for London. Who knows what they’ll do, though Bolt and the Jamaicans, who have their own Olympic trials Thursday through Sunday, are now the favorites.
Gatlin, 30, ran a personal-best 9.80 Sunday, eight years after his triumph in the Athens Games and two years after returning to competition from a positive steroid test. “I feel great,” he said. “I’m at 182 which is same weight in 04. For a 30- year-old man, that’s pretty good I think.
“My power, my strength level, my confidence has been there. This season so far has been undefeated. I’ve just been trying to ride that wave.”
Gatlin became the oldest winner of the 100 in trials history, edging by a couple of days his coach, Dennis Mitchell, who won in 1996. “I remember in ’04 I was the youngest Olympic gold medalist (in the 100),” Gatlin said. “Now I’m the oldest in something. I guess it’s like the changing of the guards. I haven’t worried about m age. I feel fit, I feel great.”
Three months ago, Gay was worried his career might be over after having right hip surgery to repair a torn labrum last July. He tried training in the fall, but the pain was too great. He didn’t try running until March when he began jogging on grass. “I kept fighting to get through it,” he said of his recovery. “I had a lot of negative doubts. I tried to throw them out.”
Somehow he ran 9.86 Sunday. It’s not the 9.77 trials record he ran in 2008 or the U.S. record 9.69 in ran in 2009, but it’s a long way from starting from scratch three months ago. The best news may be that his hip feels fine unlike in 2008 when he left the trials with a pulled hamstring.
“I feel I’m on the way up now,” said Gay, 29, who brought two physiotherapists to the trials. “This is my second (meet) of the year. That’s all I pretty much could ask for now.”
Not many people were forecasting Bailey, 23, to be on the team. His previous claims to fame were a couple of Oregon high school state records in the sprints and the 2009 junior college 100 title while at Rend Lake (Ill.) CC. He grew up in Oregon, moving often with his single-parent mother. He hoped for a Division I scholarship but didn’t have the grades and turned pro in 2010. After running an impressive 9.88 two years ago, he was injured much of last season and the early part of this season. He produced a 9.93 Sunday.
“When I was younger, it was not the best childhood,” he said. “Just realizing I was on the wrong road and I needed to turn my life around. I had my family and coaches , everybody around me, help me to do that. Now it’s a complete 180. I don’t even know what to say. I’m still taking it all in.”
When the 100 is contested in August in London, the Jamaicans will likely be favored. Bolt (9.76), Yohan Blake (9.84) and Asafa Powell (9.85) have produced seven of the year’s nine fastest time, with Gatlin having the other two.
Bolt and company may produce some fireworks during their trials this week. But injuries can occur, too.
The conventional wisdom will likely be that the U.S. will not have much of a shot at the Jamaicans in London. But why rule out three runners who have overcome so much?
“I think I have a lot left in the tank,” Gatlin said. “I’m pleased with my time and effort. I’m just happy to stay healthy. When you have athletes on the top of their game, they have to stay healthy and perform. I’ll be ready to perform.”