Heartbroken, but he'll be back

It became apparent very quickly that Tyson Gay was still hurting even though the men’s 100-metre race was already 72 hours old.

The agony of missing out on his first Olympic medal was still painfully raw when he met The New Paper here Thursday morning (Singapore time).

The American sprinter was hours away from his 30th birthday, but he was in no mood to celebrate, after his fourth-place finish in what is traditionally the biggest race of all at the Olympics.

Visibly downcast, he said: “Every athlete wants a medal... and life sometimes deals you a bad hand. I’ve been through so much and I continued to work hard. I really thought I deserved a medal.”

A weary Gay was speaking at the Omega House in Soho. He is an ambassador of the luxury watch brand, which is also the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games.

In the build-up to the London Games, he had undergone hip surgery and only got back to running in March.

The fact that he’d come so far in such a short time was scant consolation to him, but at least his fans will be relieved to know the fight had not been drained out of him.

He vowed to be back at the 2016 Rio Games, even if he’ll be 34 by then.

“I’ve made up my mind that I want to go for it. I want to continue training, work hard, and go to next Olympics.”

The 100m race at the Olympic Stadium last Sunday has gone down in history as the fastest of all time.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt retained his title with an Olympic record of 9.63sec, countryman Yohan Blake took the silver in 9.75, while Gay’s compatriot Justin Gatlin claimed the bronze in 9.79.

Gay clocked a season-best 9.80, but it was not enough.

He cried after the race, and was barely audible as he relived it later.

Said Gay: “I went to the back and started to cry because I didn’t feel that it was fair.

“When I got to the back, I sat down across from Asafa Powell (Jamaican sprint star who finished last in the final). I saw the pain in his eyes – his agent was consoling him and he told me to keep working.

“Asafa’s been through tough times like I have, so he understood what I was going through. He couldn’t say that I had a bad start or I didn’t do something right.

“He just said, ‘you gave it your all’, and I just bawled because I did, and there was nothing else that I could have done. I had no excuses.

“When I had to do the drug testing, I couldn’t put my pee into the bottle because I was shaking and thinking – what if this was my last Olympics?

“It was so tough.”

Gay remains the second-fastest man in history behind Bolt. He clocked 9.69 in 2009 and that mark has been bettered only by the Jamaican phenomenon, who posted a world record 9.58 in the same year.

The Kentucky-born speed merchant showed off his talent when he won the 100m and 200m at the 2007 World Championships.

But he injured his hamstring running the 200m at the US trials just before the 2008 Beijing Games and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100m.

While Bolt is in a different league, Gay and his supporters can’t help feeling he would have at least one individual silver or bronze by now.

He will get another chance to break his Olympic hoodoo as part of the US men’s 4x100m relay team.

But an individual medal is what Gay craves.

He said: “A lot of people don’t understand how I feel. From the outside looking in, it seems like a great experience, you see all the cameras flashing and things like that.

“But, for me, it is about winning. I try not to be materialistic about certain stuff but that’s something I think athletes individually value.

“Even if I bring home a medal in the 4x100m, it’d fill up a little of the hole in my heart.”

While he feels Blake is not unbeatable, he admits Bolt is on “another level altogether”.

When asked if anyone is capable of catching Bolt at the next Olympics, he simply shrugged and said: “We’ll see.”

sayheng@sph.com.sg  

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