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Tyson Gay seeks to secure a sprinting legacy

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Gay seeks to secure sprinting legacy

Jamaican Observer
Monday, April 04, 2011

IT'S easy to mistake American sprinter Tyson Gay for being a no-nonsense person not given to fooling around or playing practical jokes.

After all, the guy rarely breaks a smile and always seems to be in a hurry to get to where he is going.

Yet, a few weeks ago during an Adidas photo shoot in Clermont, Florida, while his fellow Arkansas alum and training partner Veronica Campbell Brown was being interviewed, Gay snuck up behind the interviewer and was recording her on his smart phone, then chuckled when she looked up and caught him in the act.

The soft-spoken Gay is nothing like the brash, attention-seeking American male sprinters one has got accustomed to, but is rather humble and accommodating and has endeared himself to the sometimes cynical Jamaican track fan over the years.

Gay, who says he likes running in Jamaica, is close friends with Campbell Brown and her husband Omar, and was a guest at their wedding in Montego Bay in 2007.

The only man to beat double world sprint record-holder Usain Bolt last year when he won in Sweden in Bolt's final race of the season, Gay, who won three gold medals at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, and is the second fastest man ever, says he is not content with his achievements and has set the bar much higher.

Asked whether he thought he had reached his potential after running an American 9.69 seconds in 2009, but was dogged by injuries the next few seasons, his response was almost as quick as his talented feet. He said he wanted to prove himself.

"No. I hope to just get through a season with no injuries."

Speaking in a soft Southern drawl that forces the interviewer to listen carefully, Gay said while he has "had a couple of (injury) setbacks this year already... I think this year or next year I could reach my true potential".

The setbacks, he said, could have been caused by his own impatience and eagerness to work harder and get faster.

"Just minor things that just come with the territory when you're pushing the envelope in practice and running fast too early," he explained.

He says he wants to create a legacy, one like his great Jamaican nemesis Bolt, and is not satisfied with what he has achieved already.

"I don't want people to look at me and think, 'Tyson Gay — a 9.6 guy'. I want to run faster than that."

Having only gone under the 9.7 seconds barrier once, he says he is not ready to wear that title of a 9.6-second runner until he has earned it.

"I look at myself as a 9.7 guy because I have only run 9.6 once in pretty good conditions, so when I start running 9.6 or faster, then I'll look at myself as an elite," he explained.

Gay's personal best over 100m came in Beijing with a perfect 2.0 metres per second wind at his back — the maximum allowable wind for times to be accepted as legal.

Gay said Bolt, who has run under 9.70 seconds twice, including a world record 9.58 seconds, has created his niche and it was up to the others like himself to step up to the plate.

"You have to separate yourself, like Usain Bolt; he has separated himself from the pack. I think that's when you can call yourself a certain type. That's the point where I'm trying to get — where you separate yourself so far from the world."

The fire, he said, has not cooled at all as there is a lot to do in the next two years, including improving his 2010 performance.

"Health is the key for me," he says. "I need to stay healthy and continue doing what I've been doing. I just need to get stronger naturally."

Gay, who is considered Bolt's biggest threat given his fearless attitude, says he is driven to excel by his love for the sport of track and field.

"I think what drives me is just track and field in general; the challenge of the sport. Even when you are injured, to be able to come back and be at your full potential is important," he said.

Legacy is important to him as well. "I told several people that I don't want to leave the sport and say what coulda, shoulda, what if. So every race I run, I run like it's my last, so even though a lot of professional athletes took off last year or didn't run hard, I ran every race hard like it's my last race as you never know."

Gay says his preparation for this season is going well: "I'm ahead of where I was last year, but there are little niggles here and there from pushing the envelope in practice."

He admits the slight injuries could be as a result of over-exerting himself in training and says for this season he needs to show patience.

"Yes, it's going to be a long season. I don't think I'm pushing too hard," he says, then pause before conceding, "Ok, maybe slightly I'm being anxious as I started training in November, rather than January/ February as in past years because of injuries," and explained.

"It's like I'm excited and sometimes I have a tendency to step it up in practice, but I need to take it down a notch."

Because of the injuries from the past few seasons, Gay skipped the indoor season this year and says most likely he will open his outdoor season by running some relays in April before contesting an individual race at the Texas or Drake Relays, then a 100m at the Adidas Classic in New York in June.

And what about the Jamaica International Invitational? he was asked.

"I would love to be there. I love running in Kingston; they have such a great atmosphere there, but I am not sure yet," he replied.

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